Legislative Auditor to investigate IRRRB

IRRRB

The Star Tribune reports that the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board agency will face a review by Minnesota’s Legislative Auditor after months of scrutiny by the state’s largest newspaper.

The April 18 story seems to indicate that Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles would focus on a widely reported deal to help relocate a Democratic-leaning call center in Eveleth. From the Bjorhus report:

As for the IRRRB, [Legislative Auditor Jim] Nobles said that his office is gathering information on the loans the agency made and details about the political and commercial work Meyer Associates did and that he would use the information to decide any further action. “That action could include a full audit of the IRRRB or a special review focused just on the call center issues,” Nobles said.

The Jennifer Bjorhus investigative series about the IRRRB has been relentless, highlighting some of the agency’s enduring challenges and failures for a statewide audience. That said, I don’t think the stories have drawn blood yet, so to speak. The fact that Giants Ridge hasn’t been a moneymaker, or that the agency has a history of backing projects even through initial failures to keep people working, isn’t news and isn’t illegal or inherently nefarious. Politics at the IRRRB? Color me unsurprised.

What could really affect change, however, is a thorough report from the Legislative Auditor investigating the agency’s entire process of risk assessment and comprehensive planning. Commissioner Mark Phillips and others at the agency are quoted saying they welcome the review. That’s good to hear. I happen to agree. This agency needs a thorough audit and self-analysis as we enter a new period in the Iron Range’s economic history. The IRRRB’s unique ability to marshal Iron Range taconite revenue for the purpose of economic diversification will be crucial to the next decade.

When the history of this time on the Iron Range is written, it will either be said that the IRRRB ultimately stood as a means of diversifying our economy, or that it steadfastly protected self-serving agents of the status quo. These are harsh extremes, to be sure, but we need such clarity when we make policy for the future of the Iron Range. There is simply no time left to be passive.

Comments

  1. You would think we would want someone other than Range DFL politicians looking at IRRRB. The folks, not from the Range, are outraged by lack of production from projects involving taconite tax money. Up here, you barely hear a word about the Meyers group using tax dollars to elect DFL’ers at a call center in Eveleth. The same elected officials that are giving the call center OUR tax money are benefitting by having the call center lobby to get them re-elected. Nobody up here calls that a conflict of interest.

    Would love to see the outrage if Meyer Associates were a GOP-leaning group being funded by IRRRB. Hair would fly.

  2. Ranger47 says:

    Irregardless, or regardless as my English teacher Ms. Kahn would correct me, as to how this audit turns out, The Range is too far gone to change its ways within the current generation. When we have young folks like Carly Melin & Jason Metsa stepping in to replace the likes of Tommy Rukavina and Tom Anzelc, the chances of any meaningful positive change for the Range is nil. It’ll be business as usual for some time to come…

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