Hatch's resignation doesn't satisfy Republicansby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
Former Attorney General Mike Hatch, who took a job under his successor, has abruptly quit his post amid a growing controversy over his role in the office. Hatch said he was leaving to help relieve a cloud over current Attorney General Lori Swanson, who has seen several staffers leave her office since January. Hatch's resignation comes at a time when members of the Minnesota House were considering an investigation into Swanson's office.
St. Paul, Minn. — In his resignation letter, Hatch said changes that he made during his administration are unfairly being attributed to Swanson.
Hatch said it is inappropriate that Swanson should become the target of complaints involving his administration, and he hopes the public will continue to focus on Swanson's good work.
Hatch's letter provided no information about which changes made on Hatch's watch prompted a wave of staff departures on Swanson's.
Neither Hatch nor Swanson was available for comment, but Swanson issued a two-sentence statement praising Hatch's service.
Hatch served as attorney general for eight years, starting in 1999. He lost his bid for governor in November 2006, and accepted a job with Swanson in December. Since then, some three dozen staffers have left the office.
Swanson characterized the turnover as ordinary. But members of AFSCME, the state's largest public employee union, have said at least one staffer was fired for union organizing. Swanson denies that. Several current and former staffers say Hatch was one reason for the unrest.
An official with AFSCME issued a statement saying Hatch's resignation is a first step, but the union's issues are with Swanson.
Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano, says Hatch's departure raises more questions regarding the problems in Swanson's office.
"Clearly, something has happened in the past three days that should raise some public awareness and need for scrutiny," says Emmer, "when all of a sudden out of the blue, a very well-respected former attorney general who is in the office, suddenly announces his resignation -- without any warning whatsoever."
Emmer has been pushing for the House to investigate the problems within the attorney general's office.
But DFL House Majority Leader Tony Sertich says there will not be an immediate investigation. Sertich says lawyers and others on his staff say the House could hold hearings, but warned Sertich to be cautious about wading into a discussion over employment law.
"I believe that in issues of employment law, we need to see all of the facts on the table. So far, these have only been news accounts and a lot of it has been unnamed sources," says Sertich. "In matters of employment law, when there is possible litigation or mediation on the line, caution is important and we'll wait for more resolution."
Sertich says Hatch called him on Monday to discuss what actions House leaders were considering. Sertich, who is a DFLer like Hatch, says he did not receive any pressure from Hatch to end a possible investigation.
But House Republicans refuse to let the issue die. Emmer, the deputy Republican House Minority Leader, has filed a formal information request with Swanson's office.
Emmer wants to see phone records for Hatch and Swanson, e-mail, a list of employees terminated since November, and any correspondence between Hatch and Swanson regarding firings and issues involving unionizing of the attorney general's office.
- All Things Considered, 05/01/2007, 5:24 p.m.