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Lawmakers push for changes in state hiring

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 5/1/19

REGIONAL— The April 19 Timberjay investigation into questionable hiring practices at the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation now appears likely to lead to a change in state law. …

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Lawmakers push for changes in state hiring

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REGIONAL— The April 19 Timberjay investigation into questionable hiring practices at the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation now appears likely to lead to a change in state law. Rep. Rob Ecklund, DFL-International Falls, and Rep. Sandy Layman, R-Grand Rapids, added complementary amendments as part of ongoing work on the House State Government Finance Omnibus bill.

Ecklund’s initial amendment requires a commissioner of any state department or agency to ensure that all hiring for managerial positions is done through a fair and open process, where all qualified candidates are given full consideration. It also states that job requirements cannot be altered to fit a particular candidate and that internal documents may not identify a particular candidate as the holder of the position prior to their official hiring. Layman then offered a friendly amendment to Ecklund’s provision, which codifies a policy change announced last month by Gov. Tim Walz, into state law. The change would require that vacant state positions be posted and applications accepted for a minimum of 21 days. Any deviations from this policy would require a waiver and public notice of the waiver to be published within 14 days in the State Register.

Both Layman’s amendment and the underlying Ecklund amendment were adopted into the State Government Finance bill on voice votes. 

The posting time proved one of several issues of concern raised in the Timberjay’s story. Officials at the IRRR had sought a special exemption to post a newly-created position for just 24 hours. Current state policy recommends at least 21 days and sets a posting minimum of seven days, but agencies can seek an exemption from that requirement. The new legislation would make such exemptions much more difficult to obtain and more transparent.

“It’s important that the Legislature makes these changes to help ensure an embarrassing hiring incident like this doesn’t happen again,” Layman said. “I believe this is a strong first step in reforming and restoring the integrity of our state agency hiring practices. I will continue to look at other ways to repair these processes and make sure Minnesota is free of cronyism.” 

The state Senate adopted similar hiring language last week that is now included in the Senate’s own version of the state government finance bill.

The legislation will now head to a House-Senate conference committee to approve identical language. The passage of the measure by both the House and Senate significantly increases the likelihood that the new hiring language will be enacted into law.

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