Newspaper article

After Botched Staff Firing, Assertive Commission Members Push Their Independence

Newspaper article

After Botched Staff Firing, Assertive Commission Members Push Their Independence

Article excerpt

Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, did not look like a happy man.

Yes, as he pointed out, he did hold the gavel as the executive committee of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources met this morning. But he didn't hold the votes.

That meant that the executive committee -- and, later, the full committee -- was able to move forward in clarifying its position as an autonomous body that is not under the control of the Legislative Coordinating Commission.

This clarification is important, if you recall the firing -- and, later, the un-firing -- of Susan Thornton as director of the LCCMR. She was fired during the Christmas holidays, apparently at the urging of Republican House leadership, who wanted the commission "to go in a different direction."

Hackbarth was a part of that "different direction" push.

But a few days after she was fired, likely at the nod of House Speaker Kurt Zellers, she was un-fired when it apparently was decided that only the LCCMR has the right to hire and fire its director.

This morning, Hackbarth didn't want to go over that bumbled effort to fire Thornton.

"We're moving on," said Hackbarth, who is the co-chair of the LCCMR.

But members of the executive board -- including co-chair Nancy Gibson, a citizen member of the board -- was among those who didn't think it was quite time to simply forget the recent past.

Along with another citizen member, Jeff Broberg, she kept pushing for the commission to receive clarification from the LCC just who's in charge.

"I want a clear direction," Gibson said. "Just putting things behind us doesn't tell us where we're going to go. ... We've been under a cloud."

"We're not going to turn this into that kind of meeting," Hackbarth said. "When you're the chairman, when you have the gavel, you can have that discussion."

That, however, turned out to be wishful thinking on Hackbarth's part. …

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