Report details irregularities in IRRRB hiring of former Congressional candidate

A recent investigative news story highlights the unusual way in which former State Rep. and recent Congressional candidate Joe Radinovich was appointed to a high level permanent job at the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation.

Joe Radinovich

Joe Radinovich

Marshall Helmberger of the Tower Timberjay published the report Wednesday. The story quickly spread to media outlets across the state.

Among the story’s findings:

  • Radinovich’s new job is a classified position, not a political appointment. In other words, this permanent state position could continue beyond the current administration. 
  • IRRR posted the job listing online for just 24 hours, without any announcement or effort to publicize the job opening. 
  • An organizational chart made before the job posting showed Radinovich already in the position. 
  • The agency remove a requirement for a college degree and allowed campaign work as government experience, presumably to benefit Radinovich.
  • The agency hired Radinovich over at least one candidate with considerably more experience and education.
  • All of this comes underscored with the fact that another former DFL lawmaker, Jason Metsa, was named Deputy Commissioner.

The flip side of this is that what the agency did was legal. Though extremely rare, special job postings like this have happened before.

And Radinovich has worked for the agency before, as Assistant Commissioner during Commissioner Mark Phillips’ time in the Mark Dayton administration.

Mark Phillips

Nevertheless, the story is an embarrassment. It’s not a good look for Radinovich, but is particularly damaging to the agency and especially Commissioner Mark Phillips.

The story obviously results from many weeks of work. Helmberger used freedom of information requests, investigation of state hiring practices and interviews from across the political spectrum. Just read it. Consider the comments on all sides.


As indicated, nothing done by the agency appears to be illegal. But it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Commissioner Phillips handled this hiring inappropriately. Further, he does not seem to understand why it was inappropriate. 

At minimum this was an act of political malpractice. The widespread stereotype of the IRRRB is that it is a den of cronyism. Phillips own explanations do little to confront this, and even manage to exacerbate the problem.

Had they just posted the job normally and hired Radinovich, many of the concerns described would have been addressed. Frankly, this outcome was the product of hubris and the troubling assumption that no one would notice.

The local social media reaction to the story seems hopelessly divided. Some of it is partisan. Republicans crow over Democrats making a cushy job for their unsuccessful Congressional candidate. Democrats argue that it’s just political pot-stirring by the GOP.

Some of the chatter is “intra-partisan.” Progressives avow that this appointment reflects the “insider” nature of the Iron Range DFL and the IRRR agency itself. Meantime, supporters of the current regime reply that rival candidates were all somehow associated with former DFL congressional candidate Leah Phifer, and were settling some score with Radinovich over their defeat.

For many Iron Rangers, though, this is just a modern incarnation of the political practices that went unquestioned during decades of single-party rule on the Range. We just hear about it more for two reasons. 1) The region now features elected Republican representatives who have no reason to stay quiet; and 2) a growing schism between moderate and liberal Democrats that sapped party unity. When everyone was loyal to the “team,” this stuff happened more quietly.

Note: that doesn’t mean it was a good thing.

To be up front, I must offer several disclosures to talk about this.

I am a Democrat. I am a liberal. As a general rule, I do not oppose mining. There are caveats to these statements, but none relevant to my views here. Maybe none of that matters at all, but I’d like to head off the bullshit in the comments. I’ve been on the record calling out cronyism in my own party in the past, and have taken my lumps in doing so. In 2015 I detailed exactly how insider dealing affects deals at the agency. 

Furthermore, I know all of the people involved in this story. Lorrie Janatopoulus is a dear friend from my earliest activity in the Iron Range DFL and my early work with youth employment programming. I was a personal reference for her when she sought the Commissioner’s job earlier this year and we’ve discussed the events of this story.

I know Joe Radinovich, too, and have supported his campaigns. I’ve always liked the guy. Still do. 

Of all the people quoted in this story, I’ve got the most bias against State Rep. Sandy Layman. After all, she beat my friend Tom Anzelc in 2016, handing me my only career loss as a campaign manager. She’s a Republican who supports President Trump and a host of policies I oppose.

That’s why it’s relevant that, of all the people quoted in Helmberger’s story, I agree with her the most. That declaration does not come easy, but it’s true.

She argues that the agency should be de-politicized. That filling its ranks with current and former elected officials distracts from its mission. That diversifying and expanding the Iron Range economy requires a focused, unbiased approach to new businesses and new ideas. 

Yes. This is true. 

And it is in this spirit that we must call out and improve hiring processes like the one described. It’s not personal. As I said, I like Joe. 

But I think we should take a measured view of stories like these. How would I feel if Layman was a Democrat, Radinovich a Republican? If a GOP commissioner did what Phillips did here? 

I wouldn’t like it. And so I don’t like this either. 

I don’t propose any specific outcome here, at least not yet. I want to hear what Radinovich — who declined comment to Helmberger — says. We need to know what’s being done to refocus this agency on its mission, to prepare the Range for a rapidly changing economy that has — to a large extent — already left us behind. 

This is about so much more than a job. It’s about our region’s future. We can’t waste time or opportunities on cronyism, or the appearance of cronyism — no matter our political leanings. In fact, this would all be so much better if we fought for specific ideas as hard as we did for blind party loyalty.

Radinovich and the IRRRB are lucky this came out the same day as the Mueller Report. In the Trump era, outrage over local issues lasts as long as a tweet.

But we’ve got to pay attention. It’s good for everyone when we all know what’s really happening. And local issues are much more crucial to our lives than any other level of government.


  1. John Ramos says

    When the backscratchers and cronies need to make room for one more, they find a way. Phillips’ apparent obliviousness to why this good ol’ boy crap bothers people reminds me of St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin hiring his son without interviewing any of the 26 other candidates. Rubin appeared genuinely baffled that anyone would be concerned by that. He kept pressuring reporters to tell him who was behind it all, who had an ax to grind with him, that the story became so big. He never seemed to think his own actions were to blame. What is wrong with these people?

  2. I am also a life long Democrat, but I couldn’t agree with Aaron more that this is a very bad move for the Range DFL and the IRRR.

    The thing that makes is bad is that this was not one of the political patronage jobs that the IRRR traditionally passes around to defeated and retired DFLers. This is a real professional job, one that had real requirements that had to be waved in order for Radinovich to qualify, and that had an applicant with much better credentials who had to be rejected, and that was rejiggered to fit with Joe’s life situation.

    It is true that the GOP officials making a big deal about this are primarily interested in its value in attacking the DFL in general and Radinovich, a potential candidate for office in the future, in particular. It is also true that the GOP has done similar stuff in the past when they have held power to do so. However, that does not change the fact that they are right.

    IMO, Radinovich is a long shot for defeating Stauber barring a total Democratic run of the table in 2020. This makes it even less likely.

  3. #stepdownjoeradinovich

  4. How did Sandy Layman get her position as head of the IRRRB back in the day? Her outrage is questionable , to say the least.

  5. John Ramos says

    Mine isn’t. Just look at mine.

  6. Ross Reishus says

    SIGH. It does DFL’rs no good to act like the GOP, but here we go again. Like it or not, this stinks to high heaven, Democrats. And I typically vote for Democrats. Spent many formative years in Hoyt Lakes and Biwabik, yet every year away has made me cringe. Just because the GOP is getting crazier doesn’t give us license to do the same. YES, the GOP would do EXACTLY THE SAME THING and then somehow find a way to blame Democrats about it. So I guess if we’re going to fight fire with fire, find a way to blame the GOP. ? ? ? Or something like that.

    • You’re on to something Ross. Here’s one idea. At one time, this organization was call Iron Range Resources…two RR’s only. As we know, it’s now called Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, three RRR’s. Surely we can find a way to tie the third “R” as code word for Russia. From there, it’ll be easy to link the GOP to the name change…

      Careful though, they might come back and somehow tie the third R to Radinovich, when we all know it’s really in honor of Rukavina. One of the best ever Iron Range cronies.

  7. John Ramos says

    The little old Timberjay grabbed the statewide DFL and shook them till their teeth rattled. Now the governor’s acting like he’s all innocent, when it’s patently obvious that he’s guilty as hell. Changes are going to be made.

    In other words, the rock got turned over, and now the bugs are scurrying in every direction. Ha ha! Way to go, Timberjay!

  8. David Gray says

    This column is a good example of the enduring value that Aaron Brown brings to our regional discussion. I disagree with him often but I judge him to be an honest man and I believe he, once more, demonstrates that in this column. Civil society is not threatened by honest disagreements the way that it is by dishonest disagreements. Thank you Aaron.

  9. steve baker says

    The regional newspapers are going to need to bring back Birth Announcements, (and add supplements), to report on all the people apparently born yesterday!

  10. Erin Ningen says

    I am a Democrat. Frankly oh, this is not a partisan issue.
    It’s an ethical issue that strikes at the heart of many of the problems we are experiencing in America. We need to re-examine our commitment to the principles of fair play and equal treatment. These used to be American values upheld by both parties (at least publicly) When we allow unmotivated rich kids to skip ahead of the line for college admission because their parents bought them access or when a likable guy with political connections scores a plum job because he knows the public employee doing the hiring, we are doing the wrong thing. The scary part for me is that neither Phillips nor Radinovich seem particularly ashamed of cheating. We can be so much better than this. Cheating only allows mediocrity to rise to the top. And that’s bad for America.

    • I’d say it started in the ’60’s Erin, about the time TIME asked “Is God Dead”, suggesting He was. And things accelerated in 1973 when America began sponsoring the legal slaughter of the unborn. Since then, little by little, generation by generation, America has allowed the lines of morality, decency, and virtue to be erased.

      Our countries founding values of frugality, industriousness, common sense justice, humility, self-reliance and yes, Godliness, have disappeared as we began to believe truth is relative. Therefore, the Ten Commandments were to be removed from the public square.

      Suicides have increased, marriage has been redefined, half the marriages end in divorce, kids are growing up in fatherless homes, prayer before a basketball game is prohibited, disrespecting the flag is glorified, heavy fines or jail time are levied for killing an eagle egg, but killing unborn humans is legal and fully condoned. And you wonder why Phillips and Radinovich feel no shame, no guilt? Come now.

      • Oh…and not to mention Erin, both Phillips and Radinovich, and most all Democrats, openly support law breaking. They support lawless open boarders and sanctuary cities which blatantly supports breaking Federal law. Not to mention their unwillingness to strengthen our voting systems to prevent illegals from voting and therefore canceling out a legal U.S. citizens vote. So a little good ole boy politics is nothing to them. They’re wondering “whats the big deal”, and truly think they’ve done nothing wrong. 

  11. Your purity is sooo commendable , Ranger.

    • Thanks Jackie…much appreciated. But any good you perceive in me comes not from me, but my Lord and savior Jesus Christ, whose resurrection we celebrate…today!

      Just think of the message we’ve sent to our kids/grandkids, and the rest of the world, by eliminating virtues such as:

      Don’t swear
      Honor your father and mother
      Don’t kill
      Don’t screw with someone else’s spouse
      (And for added emphasis, don’t even entertain the thought of messing with someone else’s spouse)
      Don’t steal
      Don’t tell lies about anyone
      Don’t think about wanting or taking what belongs to someone else

      Why would we as a society demand these 8 virtues be removed from public places, not to mention the other two? Worse yet, what have we replaced them with? Nothing, absolutely nothing. We said everyone is free to establish their own virtues. Sure doesn’t seem to be working out so well for us, does it?

      Give it a shot Jackie. We’re open to what you think, as a society, our top 8 or 10 virtues should be.. 

  12. Here’s the latest “lack of virtue” effort by people such as Radinovich and Phillips promoting lawlessness. House DFL members recently brought forward a bill (H.F. 1500) that would create special driver’s licenses and state ID card for illegal immigrants.

    After a lengthy debate, the bill moved out of the House to the Senate on a 74-52 vote. Wording in H.F. 1500 includes: “A person is not required to demonstrate United States citizenship or lawful presence in the United States in order to obtain a driver’s license or identification card.”

    (Current Minnesota law specifically forbids issuing drivers licenses and ID cards to illegal immigrants as it should). 

    Worse yet, H.F. 1500 contains special data sharing restrictions on illegals immigrants that are issued a license or ID card: “Subd. 11. (a) The commissioner must not share or disseminate outside of the division of the department administering driver licensing any data on illegal immigrants.”

    As a U.S. citizen and Minnesota resident, you and I do not enjoy the same data-sharing protections as would an illegal immigrant in possession of a Minnesota driver’s license or ID card.

    Why does the DFL insist on bending over backwards to grant benefits to people who are in the country, in the state, in our counties and cities, illegally? Why? Lack of virtue. Not only that, they attempt to pass state laws requiring we not cooperate with federal authorities in helping them enforce federal laws.

    When the DFL is of the mindset to pass laws like this, it’s no wonder Phillips feels no guilt, no shame in granting special benefits to someone like Radinovich… at least he’s here legally.   

  13. This has become a very interesting thread.

    The story behind it is that several Range political people conspired to offer a non-political public position to an essentially unqualified person who happens to be a DFL insider who has both run for office himself and has run successful campaigns for other officeholders. It appears on the surface to be about slipping a good old boy (although not so old) a handy $100,000, and, given that this is the Range,also perhaps a little bit about the blackballing of a more qualified candidate who has a history of not being an enthusiastic supporter of non-ferrous mining.

    If anyone doubts that the Range DFL plays an insiders’ game, and that the IRRR is part of that game, this should be a refresher.

    Note, I said “the Range DFL.” Not the CD8 DFL, Duluth DFL, or state DFL. So far, despite comments above, there is exactly zero evidence of involvement by officials off the Range, and in particular of any statewide officeholders.

    Of course, there are those who would like to make that jump, but so far the news out of St. Paul is “no news.”

    However, the most interesting thing to me is that GOP partisans are not content with the case, and with catching Range DFLers with their feet in the trough. For them, this has to be more. And most interestingly, it has to also be about abortion, immigration, xenophobia, racial issues, voter suppression, and all the usual Fox News/far right tropes we know and love.

    And, IMO, that goes a long way to illustrate what went wrong for the GOP in 2018, and what seems to still be going wrong in 2019. To be a Republican, and to take a Republican position on this controversy, it is not enough unless it includes the entire right wing agenda.

    And this is why traditional Republican voters in the suburbs of the Twin Cities and in every other major metro area are all of a sudden voting Democrat.

    Despite being a life long Democrat, I have one piece of advice for the GOP partisans: stay on topic. As the great Slick Willie used to say, when people tried to get him to throw in the kitchen sink during his successful 1992 run, “It’s the economy, stupid.” In this case, “It’s the Range DFL caught with their pants down, stupid.” Don’t ruin things for yourselves by dragging up a lot of extraneous BS that draws attention away from the main case. You have been given an gift. Accept it with a smile.

    • “I am like a desert owl, an owl among the ruins.”

      You are right. This is interesting. Though, I believe people are not nearly as far apart as they believe themselves to be. Everyone reacts in his or her own way to now/today/this whole era.

      The crazy part is how certain factions will celebrate Leonard Cohen, Dylan, etc. But when Ranger says the exact same thing everyone loses their minds. Has anyone listened to Leonard Cohen, such as a song titled The Future? Apparently cool and/or hip when Cohen says the exact same things.

      This is the future we were hearing about as children. I love my new vantage point. All those Leonard Cohen songs, such as The Future, are really making sense today…

      I am interested in how ideology predicts one’s response to another. People determine their reaction according to perception of where one stands politically. And this only increases.

      The plot thickens…

    • You’re a funny guy Gerald. Try as you might to separate the issues, us common sense deplorables know they’re linked.

      By the way, your sudden concern for the GOP and us gun totin’, bible thumpin’ folks is a bit out of character. You sure you’re feeling ok…and being sincere?

    • Gerald…you’re little exposé just sparked an epiphany…impeach ’em! Not Trump but Phillips. I’m sure if we keep digging we’ll find the needed skeletons to get him out of office. What’dya think? I’m on it!!

      • Just think if we really try. This is just with a simple Mark Phillips google:

        By Alan L. Maki, Guest Contributor IBNN NEWS
        Minneapolis, MN (IBNN NEWS/RCJ/June 7, 2011)…In my opinion it is mean and cruel to train people for jobs that don’t exist. What is terrible is many of the training programs exist just so the over-paid administrators can feed at the public trough.

        Mark Dayton appointed an outright opponent of Affirmative Action, Mark Phillips, to head up the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Mark Phillips worked for the number one offending employer in Minnesota for failing to enforce Affirmative Action: Kraus-Anderson.

        It is racist to train someone to do a job knowing the people who are going to be trained will not get the job because of the color of their skin.

        No one knows better than DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips whose department oversees millions of dollars in training funds that the people of color being trained are never going to get a job because while working for Kraus-Anderson it was his job to enforce racist employment policies designed to deprive people of color from getting jobs they were trained to do.

        • I rest my case.

          • You might rest easy Gerald, but us deplorables don’t appreciate how things were handled.

            Gerald says – “So far, there is exactly zero evidence of involvement by officials off the Range, and in particular of any statewide officeholders.”

            Wednesday,April 17, 2019 5:12 pm
            Marshall Helmberger

            “Rather than post for the minimum of seven days, officials with the IRRR applied for and received an exemption allowing them to post the job for just 24 hours, citing a desire by the governor’s office.”

            Hmmm….I doubt if the application for exemption was sent to Balsam Township. Sure sounds like St. Paul involvement to us Gerald, so far. So who’s lying, Phillips or Walz?

  14. Philips. Only a totally committed partisan would even ask that question.

    Phillips whole account of the episode to the “Timberjay” is fragmented, confused, desperate, contradictory and flailing. He is caught, and is floundering, grabbing at any straw. His rationale, including his “desire from the governor’s office” that seems known only to him, is a case study in someone caught flatfooted and babbling anything to try to deflect attention from himself. The application for the one day job posting undoubtedly was rubber stamped by some low level factotum in St. Paul after Phillips applied for it, under the mistaken impression that Phillips knew what he was doing. This was way below Walz’s pay grade, and I doubt he heard of it before the article in the Minnesota Post when they summarized the “Timberjay” report.

    This whole thing happened north of Highway 2.

    Both Phillips and Joe should resign. Not certain they can be impeached, but people could and should ask for his resignation.

    I hope the DFL currently has leadership that cares about integrity, and throws the offenders in the IRRR over the side.

    • We’re in the same chapter Gerald. Now let’s get on the same page and find out who your “low level factotum” is. And did his/her department head know/approve. And did the department head communicate to his/her boss, Walz, and did Walz nod his head. Pretty simple…

    • The Duluth News-Tribune — a subsidiary of the Fargo Forum with a pretty consistently right wing on state and national issues — describes the story of Walz involvement as a “false claim.”

      I agree that whoever signed off on the 24 hour posting needs a stern talking to and a notation on their HR file. The notion that Walz or anyone anywhere near his level in St. Paul is involved in the minutia of day to day operation of the IRRR, the decision as to where game wardens get their socks, or which high school kids pick the apples at the state arboretum mistakes how an operation this size runs. When you were at 3M, I doubt if the CEO was monitoring how many pencils you took from the supply closet.

      The responsibility for this rests squarely on Phillips and the IRRR board, the putative professionals who made the decision. I agree with the DNT that an investigation of the IRRR followed by firings is in order. The IRRR is way too deep into coddling politicians, from Metsa, Radinovich, and Phillips now to Sandy Layman back when the GOP was in control. If we expect it to do its job, it needs qualified professional staff, not once and future candidates for office from both parties, depending on who is in control

      • Pencils? Probably not. But back when 3M was less than $1 billion in sales, the CEO did know if we were hiring a $100,000 + employee. In part, it’s why today they’re over a profitable $30 billion company today….and employing over 10,000 people in Maplewood alone, not to mention 1,000’s more in 6 communities around in state.

        They were also recognized as one of the worlds most ethical companies in 2018 (most employees wouldn’t think of stealing from them, certainly not pencils). They take that issue quite seriously. Great company. Minnesota DFL’ers should treat them better than they do. It’s a shame many retirees move out due to the state having one of the most destructive tax structures in the country. But we digress.

        Oh..they started in Two Harbors you know.

        Back to the issue at hand..The responsibility no longer rests with Phillips. He can’t be in charge of punishing himself, assuming he’s guilty as you do. No…future action resides clearly with Walz, assuming he wasn’t a party to the unethical behavior, which we still don’t know.

        We still shouldn’t rule out Carly.

        • Back when 3M had $1 billion in sales, $100,000 was the equivalent of $700,000 in today’s dollars, so yes, the CEO probably did need to sign off on that. Today, $100,000 is the equivalent of $14,000 back then, and is a basic entry level salary for chemists, engineers, and physicists with graduate degrees, MBA’s from good schools, company lawyers, and other professionals with post-grad training.

          So it is almost certain that the CEO of a $38 billion a year concern — the state of MN — would not sign off on either the hiring or recruiting process for a $100,000 position on the Range, just as the CEO of 3M did not sign off on the equivalent $14,000 position back in the day. The responsibility would be delegated, in this case to Phillips, and if the executive tasked with the decisions made significant mistakes, he would be in danger of demotion or firing.

          Again, I will add that for the IRRR to do its job correctly, it needs to be run, top to bottom, by qualified career professionals with appropriate training and experience, not be spoils for political people like Radinovich, Phillips, and Layman. This really needs to stop, and if the current debacle leads to a top to bottom review of the IRRR, accompanied by appropriate reforms, it will be the best thing that has ever happened to the agency.

  15. Gray Camp says

    Just get rid of the IRRRB already. Put the mining money in the hands of the actual municipalities where the mines exist and let them do some good for those communities instead of this crap.

    • Amen…I’d vote for that. Plus, the IRRR overhead costs, millions of dollars annually, would be eliminated.

    • And it’s quite a stretch that towns such as Emily, Palisade, Malmo, Wealthwood, Baylake, Waukenabo, Squaw Lake, Effie, Bigfork, Brookston, Ely, Grand Marais, Hoyland, Pigeon River and Grand Portage should have a say in or receive a penny of these mining tax monies.

      When’s the last time a tailings pond was found near Emily or someone from Wealthwood operated a 240 ton haul truck..let alone a number 2 shovel? It’s an unfair, nonsensical IRRR area definition. 

  16. Gray Camp says

    IRRRB budget is somewhere around $35.5M a year. Over half of that money goes to the combined efforts to pay the organization’s overhead costs and keep Giants Ridge solvent. The 13,000 square miles of the taconite relief region including 50 cities, 132 townships, 15 school districts are left to fight over the remaining less than half of the funds. There just is not enough money left to make much of a difference over the expanse of the region. There is only enough money left for a few pet projects here and there and the occasional gamble play.

  17. I don’t know how many past, present or future professional union organizers are employed by the IRRR, but a hiring of this nature would blow up any union shop in the country.

  18. It’s cute the way you keep trying to tie Layman into the picture Gerald. You’ll need more data than simply saying “Layman” to demonstrate the 78 years of IRRR mismanagement is a bi-partisan issue. Has the GOP ever held a majority position on the board to control how the money was spent? Ever? Of all major IRRR follies over the years, who was in charge?

  19. Gerald
    Tell us more about the low level employee who approved the exception to post the Radinovich job for only 24 hours vs. 21 days. What’s their name? Who changed the job description removing the college degree requirement? Did they remove the college requirement because the job is a lesser job than before? Did Phillips inform Walz of these changes/exceptions? Was Myron Frans, head of MMB or Carly Melin/Radinovich, director of government affairs, in any way informed or involved in this issue?
    Simple questions Gerald. Questions that need answers.

  20. Gerald
    Some thoughts on Layman, being you brought her up. As you know, in 2003, she was appointed commissioner of the IRRR and served for eight years in that role.

    She witnessed first hand the political influence that inhibited the IRRR from accomplishing its mission to enhance and diversify the economy in the Taconite Assistance Area.

    The shortcomings cited by the numerous legislative audits, and studies, regarding IRRR can be directly attributed to the legislator influence and disregard for the administrative functions of the commissioner. She was hamstrung.

    Dysfunction at the agency has always increased when the commissioner is appointed by a Republican governor, because Iron Range legislators – who sit on the board and approve all spending – are usually all members of the DFL Party.

    A few years back, In a landmark move to diversify IRRR membership, legislation was passed adding the three citizen members to the board. However, those citizen positions were later removed by DFL’ers when they regained control of state government in 2013. Presently, the board is made up of nine legislators, not to mention a DFL head, two highly paid senior DFL politicians (Metsa and Radinovich) and no economic development/investment professionals.

    When Layman was commissioner, she changed the name of the agency to Iron Range Resources, in part to differentiate the executive branch agency from the board. She attempted to get legislation passed to professionalize the structure of the board. These efforts were blocked by the Iron Range DFL legislators.

    So efforts by Layman during her commissionership, were all towards transparency, increased professionalism, bi-partisanship and removing the unconstitutional cloud hanging over the agency.

    Then Dayton, Walz, Phillips, Mesta, Radinovich, etc. came on the scene. And look what we’ve got, deja vu to the first 70 years of good ole boy cronyism.

    Get the names Gerald.   

    • The answers are easy, and already shown in the Timberjay.

      The job description change, the change to allow campaign management count as necessary qualifying experience, and the change of the listing to 24 hours were all done by Phillips, as he told the Timberjay. He did not communicate this to Walz nor did Walz communicate this to him. Again, all in the Timberjay as well as the DNT, the STrib, and the MNPost.

      Both Phillips’ own admissions and changes made in the directory of the IRRR before the appointment show that the job was specifically tailored for Radinovich.

      All that is known, as well as the fact that some lower ranking official in St. Paul signed off on the change to the 24 hour listing, the only part of the changes that required an approval outside the IRRR, since it waved the standard state rules for posting state jobs. All other changes were legally within the scope of the IRRR, if ethically very questionable. Phillips himself does not seem to know who did the sign-off, since he describes it as “somebody.” Since he was desperately scrambling to point away from his own conduct, he certainly would have named Frans, Melin, or especially Walz if he could have covered his own butt. He already tried to tell both the Timberjay and his own board that “the governor’s office” had given him direction, something subsequently judged false by all news media so far. Clearly when he worded it that way he was not implying that Walz or any of the other higher ranking officials you mention had said anything, since he was wriggling desperately and would have loved to cite names of higher authority.

      As far as Sandy Layman. The IRRR was and is a spoils prize, and Pawlenty’s appointment of lifelong GOP activist Layman was part of that. Her own appointments to other spoils positions once installed also consisted of other GOPers. However, this particular appointment of Joe R crossed a new line in appointing an unqualified politician to a non-spoils position, so the DFL has indeed broken new ground. In other words: Layman was appointed as part of “normal” political spoils, just like the appointments of Metsa and indeed Phillips, but the Joe R debacle was to a non-spoils position. Why we should accept all these spoils appointments as normal is beyond me, but it has been the case for decades under both DFL and GOP administrations, most likely because neither party wants to give up such a nice well-paying set of political rewards, all tucked far away from the prying eyes of real investigative journalists in the Metro area. The Timberjay, to its everlasting credit, Canada this story, along with a raft of other investigations of Range sacred cows, to its achievements. This one is being cheered by many of the same people who have previously wanted to string Timberjay people up.

      I would argue that the whole way of running the IRRR, from Phillips and Layman’s appointments on down, is wrong and contributes both to the aura of inside deals if not outright corruption and to the general history of repeated blunders. The officials should be recruited not from St. Paul or Range backrooms, but from people trained in business administration, economic development, planning, and public administration at nationally recognized graduate programs, and people with experience in planning and development settings, many of necessity from outside the Range and Minnesota. These should be permanent appointments not subject to replacement if the governor’s office changes parties, and should definitely not be from Range political and business groups. We have seen the disasters those groups have led the IRRR into, and don’t need any more of that.

      I would hope that there will be a thorough investigation of this incident, that it will quiet the fever dreams of partisans, andmore important that it will lead to a professionalization of th IRRR by the appointment of qualified technically trained people in place of political hacks from both parties.

      • I agree that Range politicians, mostly DFL, have had the largest role in the mess that is the IRRR. Unfortunately, when the GOP has controlled the governor’s office, they have done little to depoliticize the agency. As you indicated, Layman was herself a political appointment, and the “citizens” she and Pawlenty appointed were political agents of the GOP, if anything even worse potentially than the DFL legislators, who at least are elected by the public rather than appointed in the backrooms.

        If the GOP really wants to change this spoils system, rather than just grab their share, they should use this scandal as leverage to remove the IRRR from political spoils entirely and professionalize the agency. Meanwhile, we DFLers should be saying very strongly to our legislators — as should constituents like you and the others writing here — that the next Chair, Vice Chair and new board members should be professionals, as indicated above, as well, and that the posts should be moved from the political spoils list to permanent civil service appointments, fireable for cause but not for being from the wrong party or because some out of office politician needs money.

        Write your representative and senator — I plan to.

        As to braying “get the names,” unfortunately I am no more in a position to find out who signed off on the 24 hour posting than you are. What needs to happens that the DNT, as the paper of record in the area (and already embarrassed by being scooped by the Timberjay on this big local story in their backyard) should make a freedom of information inquiry, to be followed by litigation if they are turned down.

        Meanwhile, you have a business opportunity here. Have a bunch of ball caps made up with “Get the Names” on it, and sell it wherever the red-caps are gathered. There must be a lot of others relishing the same fever dream that this will spread beyond the usual Range suspects.

        • So you say punish Phillips without further ado, before we know who signed off and approved Phillips idea? Then we’ve satisfied the public outcry and the approver, no matter high low or high she/he is, gets off scot free. Phillips becomes the lone fall guy? You sure are pushing the agenda of a set up…and so we can quickly move on. I call B.S. Why not find out ALL who are at fault? You say this is waaaay below Walz’s pay grade. It’s also very possible his pay grade is waaay to high. Sounds unfair to us deplorables. Trial by TimberJay..

          You keep bringing up Layman as if she’s somehow a party to all this, funny guy.

          I do like your “Get the Names” hat idea, but like “MAGA” hats, folks will only wear ’em in their homes for fear of getting their car keyed…or worse yet, clubbed and then having to beat the bejeebers out of some snowflake. So, we publicly stay pretty quite…and vote, hoping some illegal doesn’t cancel it out.

      • Gerald I agree with your assessment but with one small caveat….we don’t know what job Joe was hired for and frankly I don’t think the IRRR knows either. A quick look at the IRRR web site will show you that Joe’s title is now “senior policy adviser to the commissioner.” That sounds a lot like a political position to me and very different than the “managerial” position described by the Timberjay and others.

        • Joe was hired to fill a vacant managerial position, but they changed the title to fit what Joe is and is not qualified to do. They are using funding for what is supposed to be management as another political spoils job.

          As I have said, Phillips has more or less confessed in the Timberjay, and IMO has to go, but I do agree that more investigation is needed. Turning over more rocks at the IRRR will show, I predict, that the situation there is even worse than we think. Anyone want to try an over-under as to how many hours all of these appointees actually work? As Gray Camp says, less than half of the budget is being used for the purpose it is intended, with the rest used to cover the failure of Giant’s Ridge to stop making losses and to pay a collection of out of work politicians.

          And what is really needed is to take the politics — all the politics, both DFL and GOP — out of the IRRR. This is supposed to be an agency dedicated to using the funds collected from the taconite tax to benefit the people of the Range, in lieu of the property taxes that the mines should be paying. It is not supposed to be a retirement home or temporary source of income for politicians who are out of office, regardless of which party. It should be staffed by people who legitimately know what they are doing — professionals with graduate training (and not from the University of Phoenix) from respected national class institutions in management, economic development, public administration, and economic planning, who are hired as civil service hires with jobs separate from political patronage of whoever holds the governor’s office. The other approach has been tried, and the Range is cascading down hill at a breakneck pace. We deserve better.

          And no, Layman is not a party to the Radinovich mess. She was however certainly a party to the entire spoils system approach to the IRRR, just trying to get the GOP its share of the spoils, including her own job and the “court packing” “citizens members.” Switching parties who have their feet in the trough is not fixing the system. We need to junk the idea that this is a welfare program for politicians, period. The GOP can take the high road here and be a voice for real reform, but reading Ranger, I think that is going to be unlikely. They will just al be praying that this hurts Walz. Of course in reality, no matter what is found, the people in the Metro just don’t care about the IRRR. That is, of course, why it is in such a mess in the first place, with Range good old boys and girls being allowed to do what they want in the absence of any real adult supervision.

          Unfortunately, this is all likely to be forgotten and the IRRR to continue down the path it has been on for decades, to the detriment of the role it is supposed to play.

          • Duluth News Tribune
            By Brady Slater April 25, 2019 4:04 p.m.

            It’s not me or Republicans who’re not interested in reform Gerald. We’re trying, as Layman did as chair, but the DFL’ers continue to play partisan, good ole boy politics, no change:

            “Recent Republican efforts at the state house to include IRRR hiring reform in a legislative amendment was thwarted by a majority vote, along party lines.”

            “Democrats were given a chance to send a strong, bipartisan message that special favors and cronyism have no place in Minnesota,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. “Unfortunately, Democrats blocked our amendment and failed to address this problem that has undermined Minnesotans’ confidence in the IRRRB and makes all of state government look bad.”

            And now with Radinovich resigning, any effort to dig deeper as to who all was involved will continue to be blocked by the DFL, you watch. Status quo.

  21. Radinovich has resigned.

    The GOP offered a bill in the House that sought to “reform” the IRRR, but was mainly an attack on the DFL. It failed along party lines.

    Wall announced that there will be no more exemptions from the 21 day job posting requirement.

    Sandy Layman gave a self-righteous pronouncement about her desires to insure the integrity of the IRRR, ignoring her own past history.

    All this makes for a long term situation in which the use of the IRRR for political spoils will continue regardless of the party in power. The takeaway will be that you just need to be a bit careful.

    Meanwhile, the economy of the Range will continue to roll downhill with no brakes.

  22. What’d I tell you, Gerald and the DFL are saying – “time to put this behind us”. Radinovich is out, problem solved, no need to dig further to see how this happened.

    Gerald also continues to claim Walz is “to far removed” to have been involved in the Radinovich affair. Think about that. He’s saying Walz doesn’t know people reporting to his cabinet members. That’s people one level below Phillips, one level below Mary Ricker, Department of Education head, one level below Thom Peterson, Dept of Agriculture head.

    So Daron Korte, Assistant Commissioner to Mary? Nope, Walz doesn’t know him. Too low in the organization. Dr. Heather Mueller, Senior Director for Teaching and Learning reporting to Mary? Nope, Walz doesn’t know her either,just a peon. How about Andrea Vaubel, Deputy Commissioner to Thom. She worked for then Congressman Tim Walz in both Washington, DC and Mankato. Nope, Walz is now too high a pay grade to pay any attention to her.

    So how about Radinovich who was working for Phillips. Do you really believe Walz wasn’t aware that Radinovich was being considered, favored in fact, for a job working for one of his direct reports?

    I knew general managers in charge of businesses as large or much larger than Walz’s organization and you can bet they knew not only their direct reports very well, but also people reporting to their direct reports. And the good general managers knew people a level or two below that. And for sure, he/she was kept up to speed if one of his/her direct reports was hiring someone to fill a vacancy only one level removed….and absolutely knew if they were adding senior staff to any direct reports in his/her organization. But nope, not Walz. He’s too far removed.

    If Tim Walz is as astute as your average general manager, he knew what was going on. If he didn’t, he should be governor…or in charge of any organization. 

    • …shouldn’t be governor…Or wait, I guess he should, he was duly elected by the DFL’ers of Minnesota.

      • Good luck with that Ranger. You need those hats.

        • Good luck with that?? That’s by far the least clear, shortest post ever, by Gerald. Understandable though, no defensible, logical counterargument, response can be made to what I said. We’ll move on…this horse has been flogged.

    • Joe musich says

      The Timberjay does it’s newspapering job despite all odds. It is so sad that an oraganization such as the ItripleRB has this happen. But as others have pointed out it is not the first time. The organization has a very important place in the economy of mining. It’s most important in my opinion is helping people get through the downtimes. Not just some of a particular political persuasion or a subset there in but all the people. I hope it can be healed.

  23. Fred Schumacher says

    I’ve gone through the comments and have read the reports. Gerald S does his homework and writes clearly; Ranger 47 trades in conspiracy theories. Nuff said.

    Here’s the essential underlying problem. The Mesabi Iron Range lies within the boreal forest ecosystem, the last biome populated by humans and the most difficult one to adapt to. Its carrying capacity for humans is extremely low. The Iron Range punches far above its weight in this ecosystem because of iron ore mining. However, mining is a one time harvest and its decline in any one location is inevitable. The world is littered with abandoned mining towns. The ore is not yet gone, but mining productivity has increased so hugely that the number of jobs it can provide is a small fraction of what it once could. Mining is a dead end. If not now, not far into the future, at which point the population of the Range will really crash.

    I once heard a cattleman say that his crop was grass and he used cows to harvest it. The number one natural resource in the Arrowhead is water, and we use tourists to harvest it. Tourism has changed dramatically over the past two decades and the old systems no longer work. What’s needed is a change in the industry to add value in order to meet the expectations of today’s tourists and to reach out to them with an increase in marketing work. The people who can do that marketing don’t live here. That’s a result of the self-selection process that causes most children who are born here to move away.

    The second most valuable resource is popple, but we piss it away by turning it into ground up pulp, a high volume/low value commodity. Other valuable timber resources, like red maple, get turned into firewood. These are renewable resources, unlike metal ores. What’s needed is value added processing and marketing. There are some promising technologies that have been developed at NRRI, such as heat treating wood, that are looking for startups to get the ball rolling.

    And value added is needed in the mining industry. Taconite is another high volume/low value commodity. Direct reduced iron, combined with value added manufacturing, can clearly create more economic gain and jobs than the present methodologies.

    There is a need for assets based development that looks at adding value to what this region can produce. Marketing is an absolutely essential component to adding value. That’s what the IRRR needs to focus on and not be a job creation scheme for a handful of the chosen few.

    • Fred
      There’s a test offered at Hibbing Community College called Accuplacer Placement. It’s helps determine one’s reading comprehension. I’d suggest you take the test, then the level course the test recommends, and then, and only then….re-read the “comments and reports” you claim to have read. Then give us your thoughts. But please, condense them. Having one loquacious person on Aaron’s blog is more than enough. Gerald fills that nicely.

      • Half these comments are yours, Bob! You say something outrageous and disprovable, and someone else disproves it, and you complain that they write too much. Do you not see the constant, unremitting hypocrisy in your comments? We’ve been over this for YEARS and you don’t change. So, I have to change. You’re done. Don’t comment any more. I’ll shut down comments if I have to. I’m sick of it.

  24. I think it says a lot that the position that was so vital that Radinovich fill it immediately is now open and likely to stay that way for a long time. What was the rush?

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