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U Of Minn. Regents Panel: Sviggum Has Conflict

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A committee of the University of Minnesota governing board said Friday that Regent Steve Sviggum should resign one of his two positions because of a conflict of interest.

The three-member regents panel concluded Sviggum has a conflict in his position as a regent and his job as chief spokesman for state Senate Republicans.

Sviggum attended the meeting and told the regents he disagrees with their conclusion. He also told the committee that he does not intend to resign, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

Panel members said they don’t question Sviggum’s integrity, but he still has a conflict. The Minnesota Legislature approves university funding requests and elects regents.

“In my mind, an independent observer would reasonably question if there’s a conflict of interest,” board Chair Linda Cohen said.

Sviggum, a former Minnesota House speaker, said he brings an important “pain in the butt” perspective to the board as an outspoken critic of administrative spending and other issues, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

“I am a down-home farmer trying to do the right thing and that’s why I won’t walk out of here today and resign,” Sviggum said. He said that he felt like a “victim” and “an underdog” in the process.

Earlier this week, the university’s general counsel and an outside attorney issued opinions saying that Sviggum’s two posts represent a “systemic, fundamental clash.”

The full Board of Regents will consider the issue next Thursday. The board cannot force a regent to resign, but Cohen and General Counsel Mark Rotenberg both said it is the obligation of individual regents to follow the direction of the larger board.

Sviggum’s regent post is unpaid; his Senate staff salary is more than $102,000.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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