Flap erupts over Minnesota AG Swanson

Chris Rizo Apr. 10, 2008, 12:13pm

Lori Swanson

SAINT PAUL-Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is at the center of a dispute within the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party.

A flap within the party erupted after an email suggested that a state lawmaker seeking an investigation into Swanson's management style was doing so as payback for an unwanted transfer years before, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Thursday.

Staff turn-over in the office has been high, and discord in the attorney general's office has brewed over such things as a controversial union-organizing effort in the office, LNL has reported.

The dispute has put Democratic state legislators in the middle of a fight between Swanson and labor unions, a major party supporter.

When state Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, called on the Legislative Audit Commission audit on March 28, he referenced his work from 1996 to 2001 as an assistant attorney general.

At that time, he said he worked with Swanson, an aide to Attorney General Mike Hatch after his 1998 election.

Then, in her March 31 email message to House Democrats, state Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, said she had spoken with Hatch.

"I think that as long as Representative Simon spends his time talking about his time working down the hall from Lori Swanson, he ought to disclose to the people the facts and circumstances under which he was transferred without his consent from the consumer division to the education division by Lori Swanson," Hilstrom wrote.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said the kerfuffle was a "misunderstanding between two lawmakers that has since been resolved," declining to discuss the matter in further detail.

For his part, Simon denied that his call for an audit of the attorney general was in retaliation for being transferred.

"It's unfortunate that I'm being painted as some sort of disgruntled former employee, which is not the case," Simon said. "I left on great terms from the office. The implication here that I was somehow demoted is not true. It was common for people to be shuffled from division to division as the need arose." Simon said he didn't object to the transfer.

Since Swanson took office, more than a third of the approximately 135 assistant attorneys general have reportedly either been reassigned or been dismissed.

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