Friday, February 10, 2012

Nemo iudex in causa sua

No one should be a judge in his own case... 

"It appears to constitute conflict of interest" Cohen tells board.

Regents Chair Linda Cohen announced Friday that Sviggum's job as communications chief for the Senate GOP "appears to me to constitute an employment-related conflict of interest with his duties as a regent." But she said she would not make a recommendation to the board until getting internal and external legal advice.
The university has retained attorney John Stout of Fredrikson & Byron to draft an opinion by Feb. 24. After considering that opinion, as well as another by the U's general counsel, Cohen will either make a recommendation to the board or appoint an ad hoc group to further review the issue.
During the last conflict-of-interest dustup involving Sviggum's job with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, then-Board Chair Clyde Allen formed and headed such a group.
Cohen said that review was objective and fair but she "wanted to make it even more so" this time. "This is a complex and serious matter that warrants our careful review and due diligence."
In past interviews, Sviggum has said that even if the board determines there is a conflict, he will not step down. He declined after Friday's meeting to repeat that, saying that he's "trying to be less confrontational." But he added that "at this point in time, right now, today, I would not plan on stepping down."
After Cohen's announcement, Sviggum made an emotional statement to the board, saying that he did not want to bring "any harm to this wonderful institution of the university." He again argued that his two roles can be managed.
"I do not, do not have an unmanageable... conflict of interest," he said.
[If I say it twice, it must be true?]

The board is the "final authority" on conflict questions, according to its code of ethics. But as Cohen noted Friday, there's "no way to force a regent to step down."
This is the second time since Sviggum joined the board that his day job has raised a conflict-of-interest question.
Last March, a three-regent panel decided that Sviggum's paid position with the U's Humphrey School presented a regular, unmanageable conflict with his unpaid spot on the board, and recommended he choose between the two posts. He did.
That group recommended that the board revise its code of ethics to prohibit university employees from also serving on the board. The board passed that revision Friday.

Sviggum should resign immediately.  To stubbornly refuse to do so is an unnecessary waste of the time and treasure of the University of Minnesota.

The man is a virtual conflict-of-interest seeking missile and apparently doesn't even realize it. 

Added later from comments on the Strib article:

You've got prior casework that serving two masters related to the U doesn't work... and it doesn't pass the smell test. Mr. Sviggum has got to choose which job he's holding down. Again.

"I do not, do not have an unmanageable... conflict of interest," he said.
Saying it twice does not make it so. Nemo iudex in sua causa - no one should be a judge in their own case. Think of the University of Minnesota time and treasure that is being wasted on this matter. Sviggum should resign now.

Sviggum needs to resign from the Board of Regents. He's a high-maintenance member and the board has more important things to do than deal with him.
Attention Steve Sviggum: I know this is almost impossible for you to comprehend; but, there are literally thousands of fully qualified and committed individuals who would be honored to devote their time and attention to leading a great university as a member of the board of regents. Unless you are prepared to say you will manage your job conflict by being an unrelenting advocate for the University at all times you have no right to be a Regent.

When Sviggum accepted his new legislative job on Jan. 16, he claimed he had spoken to the Board of Regents' counsel, chair, vice-chair and exec. dir. about the appropriateness of doing so, suggesting they all said "yes." Was Sviggum lying about this? How much will it cost the U to have the Fredrikson & Byron attorney draft his opinion on this matter?

Does Mr. Sviggum now hold the record for taxpayer dollars expanded in resolving his conflict of interest issues? Perhaps it's time for an intervention?

Sviggum for once in his life needs to do the honorable thing and simply ride into the sunset.

The potential for conflict of interest in holding both of Regent Sviggum's positions is obvious. And the failure to see that, in and of itself, should disqualify one from being a regent of an institution of higher education.
Our beloved U of M never slow in raising tuition but has funds to hire outside legal advice on the obvious conflict of interest. It is pretty pathetic that those that run the University from the President on down to the Board of Regents cannot see this.

This is a lot of rigmarole for a guy who for the life of him can't seem to do the right moral, ethical, or spiritual thing.

There is no politician more oblivious to ethical conflicts and more stubborn about his anti-government bias than Steve Sviggum. As a political spokesman he is going to support the Republican's massive budget cuts to education -- an extremely clear conflict of interest for a University Regent who should be maximizing opportunity for higher education.

The first time that the Senate GOP caucus disagrees with the University on a funding or capital request and communicates that to the public, Steve Sviggum has failed in his responsibilities as a U of M Regent. He is the face of denying the U's request before it is even decided upon. And Sviggum can't see that as a conflict? Or he believes that it is OK for him to just step aside and be neutral as his paymasters fight against the goals of the U of MN? Breathtaking hypocrisy from a lifetime politician.

Board Members have an obligation to check their personal hats at the door and work for the betterment of the University. When you have multiple hats, it becomes impossible to maintain the impartiality. A clear thinking person would heed good counsel and step back and realize that they must choose. It means leaving one position or the other. I respect someone that makes the right decision much more than someone who is forced to do the right thing because people are watching.

Good night and good luck and goodbye, Steve.

Sviggum has proved himself to be a classic narcissist and manipulator - he's willing to have the university, whom he purports to love so much, incur thousands of dollars of legal fees, along with the time of his colleagues - to examine his new questionable arrangement. For Sviggum it's all about ME, ME, ME. He's an embarrassment to the university and needs to leave. But he won't - he likes all the 'prestige' and power that comes with being a Regent and a 'go to guy' at the Capitol.


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