A culture of constraint: Governor needs to answer for agencies


Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dianne Mandernach has apologized, amidst calls for her resignation, for suppressing the release of information, for over one year, on 35 Iron Range miners who died of asbestos-related cancer.

Opinion: A culture of constraint (Guest article by Tom Elko of Sky Blue Waters is cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor.)

Governor Pawlenty, while acknowledging that what Mandernach did was wrong, stated that her actions did not rise “to the level of termination .”

The actions of Minnesota Pollution Control Authority commissioner, former 3M environmental manager Cheryl Corrigan, didn’t rise to Pawlenty’s standard of termination either, despite the fact that she suppressed research into the 3M chemicals that would, years later, be found in East Metro wells and local lakes. Corrigan was unceremoniously dismissed four months before Pawlenty’s reelection.

Wayne Anderson was an MPCA liaison to the Department of Agriculture when University of California-Berkley professor Dr. Tyrone Hayes was uninvited from delivering a keynote address to the MPCA because of his critical stance towards a common agricultural pesticide known as atrazine. Pawlenty appointed Anderson to the position of MPCA policy director this year.

Now there is a new whistle-blower lawsuit, alleging that the MPCA prevented a state hydrologist from accepting an invitation to testify before a house legislative committee on atrazine, and continued to retaliate against the employee.

The culture of constraint that has been created by Pawlenty’s business-first approach is damaging the credibility and effectiveness of state government and the agencies that Minnesotans rely on to act in their best interests. The obligation of the state is to its citizens, not to dutifully “avoid controversy.”

Each of these incidents needs to be addressed on their own, but Governor Pawlenty should have to answer as to why the consistent suppression of health information, vital to the public interest, is occurring in not one, but three separate departments.

It is no wonder why the Governor has set such stringent standards for termination.