MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Republican leaders Tuesday demanded that Gov. Mark Dayton rescind large severance payments to three top administration officials who voluntarily resigned.
The governor’s office says it did nothing improper, but Republicans say Dayton “violated the law.”
Dayton, a Democrat, paid out a total of $78,912 to three of his political appointees who voluntarily quit. It is a big payday that Republican leaders say is illegal.
“Minnesota is not a booster club,” said Rep. Sara Anderson, (R)Plymouth, who is chair of the Minnesota House State Government Finance Committee. “We are not designed to be using this money to fund his buddies and pay out large payments to people that obviously weren’t performing their duties.”
State records from the Minnesota Management and Budget Office show:
They are payouts that Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt says never appeared in any budget.
“Since we didn’t appropriate money for these severance packages, where did they take the money from?” Daudt said.
Gov. Dayton cites a specific state law giving him authority to grant severance pay regulating salary limits, rates, ranges and exceptions.
Linden Zakula, a spokesman for Gov. Dayton, issued the following statement:
“State law explicitly authorizes severance of up to six months’ salary for senior-level state employees, who make more than 60 percent of the governor’s salary, when they leave state service. We offered severances of up to three months’ salary to three agency heads, as the law expressly permits. The governor made those decisions, and in his judgement the circumstances justified those severances. Gov. Pawlenty used the same statute to authorize severance payments of $73,552 for two senior-level state employees. House Republicans are desperately trying to place a fig leaf over their failure last session to pass the bills that Minnesotans really need: a correctly-written tax bill, statewide building projects, and improved highways, roads, bridges and public transit.”
Meanwhile, state records confirm Dayton is not the first governor to do it.
MMB documents show Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty paid out $75,552 in severance checks to two state workers in 2005 who were not political appointees.
One former employee, an administrative law judge, got $26,478.
Another, a legislative audit manager, got $47,097.
Republicans say the law allows severance only under strict conditions, one of which is 10 years of service before becoming eligible.
The Dayton severance went to appointees with services ranging from eight months to four years.
The Pawlenty payouts went to employees with 32 and 34 years of experience.
Republican leaders say they are preparing legislation to restrict a governor’s ability to grant severance pay. But first, they want the money back.
“I’m going to be asking that he rescind those payments and return the money back to the state treasury,” Anderson said.
Dayton spokesman Zakula, responding to Republicans, issued this statement:
“Rep. Anderson’s request is ridiculous. The governor acted well within his statutory authority. The governor believes governors should make executive decisions, and legislators should make legislative decisions.”