BLOG: New Met Council Chair appointment raises question of cronyism


Adam Duininck, Met Council Chair Credit: Governor’s Office

On Tuesday, three Republican Senators joined with the DFL-majority to confirm the appointment of Adam Duininck as chair of the powerful Metropolitan Council.

Sen Karin Housely, R-St. Mary’s Point, Sen Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, and Sen Branden Petersen, R-Andover voted in favor of Duininck despite his highly-partisan resume working for DFL-political action committees and leading left-wing organizing groups.

Duininck was a union-political-staffer when he was appointed by Dayton as a member of the Met Council in 2011. He concurrently ran the 2012 Fund, the 2014 Fund and WIN Minnesota.  The 2012 and 2014 Funds were pass-through organizations during election years for Alliance for a Better Minnesota whose largest contributor was Alida Rockafeller, ex-wife of Governor Mark Dayton.  As Met Council Chair, Duininck will now head up the fourth-largest government body in the state of Minnesota with 4,200 employees and a $900 million annual budget while earning a newly-established $123,000 salary.

Governor Mark Dayton’s previous chair appointee was Susan Haigh who served as the CEO and President for Minnesota’s Habitat for Humanity also had been an elected Ramsey country commissioner from 1995-2005.

While the Met Council was established in the 1960’s to to oversee regional wastewater and sewer management it has morphed into a behemoth of a government agency which deems which cities will receive subsidized housing units and public transit projects in the name of “regional planning.”

Sen Dave Osmek, R-Mound accused the Dayton administration of cronyism in its appointment of Duininck during the Senate floor debate on Tuesday, although his argument didn’t convince the body which approved Duininck 38-22. Osmek also pointed out that the new member of Dayton’s cabinet, Duininck, is married to Jaimie Tincher, Dayton’s Chief of Staff.

Duininck and Tincher are not the only couple connected with the Governor’s staff.  Current DFL-party chair Ken Martin is married to Jennifer O’Rourke, Deputy Chief-of-staff for Dayton.  Martin ran both the 2012 fund and WIN Minnesota before Duininck and before becoming party chair.

Bob Hume, Dayton’s communications chief and senior advisor, is married to Carrie Lucking, former director for Alliance for a Better Minnesota, and current policy director for Education Minnesota, the state’s powerful teachers union.  (click on picture below for detail)

Capture

Besides the romantic relationships, there are other close-ties and cases that question conflict-of-interest in the Governor’s office.  Kathy Tunheim is a senior advisor to Dayton and also the founder of Tunheim Partners, a public-relations firm where many of the clients are government agencies and organizations who lobby the government. Tunheim doesn’t receive a salary for her work with Dayton, but she works with clientele who are tied tightly with the Executive branch of Minnesota government.  The Met Council is one client and the Metropolitan Sports Commission– the state agency who is overseeing the construction of the billion-dollar-Vikings stadium project– is another.

Dayton’s former Deputy Chief-of-staff, Michele Kelm-Helgen, now heads the Metropolitan Sports Commission and gets paid $127,000 per year from state taxpayers.  She works with Ted Mondale, who’s being paid $162,000 a year as Executive Director for the commission.  Republican Rep Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth and Chair of the House State Government Finance committee, recently sought to eliminate the salaried position for Kelm-Helgen seeing no need for two full-time leads to oversee the stadium construction.  Governor Dayton has publicly tongue-lashed Republicans for this move as well as the effort to limit Duininck’s new salary.

Nobody can question the Governor’s loyalty to the people he works with, but taxpayers would be justified in wondering whether cronyism is effecting policy-making in a negative way.