The Star Tribune has weighed in on the turmoil in the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General with an editorial calling for an independent review by the legislative auditor (“Resolution needed in AG controversy.”) I think that is a fair proposal and one that I hope AG Lori Swanson takes to heart.
Critics of the union movement on this blog and elsewhere have blamed the turmoil and morale problems on everything from a Swanson DFL political rival, to a right-wing political conspiracy, to union bullying. In a bizarre twist, one Swanson ally on this blog even accused the Communist Party of orchestrating the disharmony.
While I certainly cannot disprove the allegation that one or more outside forces had a hand in the virtually nonstop internal issues that have roiled the office during Swanson’s first 15 months, the ill-conceived management practices current and former employees in the office have described strike me as a much more likely culprit. In fact, when reports of the morale issues first started trickling to Minnesota Lawyer from current and former staff members at this time last year, those reports had an oddly familiar ring to them. An identical litany of allegations of mistreatment by management bubbled up from current and former staffers early in the administration of Swanson’s predecessor and longtime mentor, Mike Hatch. (And I don’t mean to pick on Hatch. Heavy-handed management approach and sometimes abrasive style aside, he was a staunch advocate for “ordinary Minnesotans” who today remains one of the state’s most brilliant political tacticians.) But I cannot help thinking that if Swanson could just bring herself to abandon the management methods of her mentor, and instead adopt a more conciliatory approach, that would go a long way in diffusing the situation in her office.
However, no improvement will come about so long as the AG and some of her supporters continue to point the finger at outside sources as being the cause of the staff dissatisfaction. Having an independent third party come in to get at the root of things would be an excellent way to help the office resolve this seemingly intractable impasse. It’s in the office’s best interests, and, to be frank, in Swanson’s own political interests to straighten this out. Let’s get the legislative auditor in there to either give the office a clean bill of health, or more likely, find the areas that need addressing so that both Swanson and her staff can move forward.