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Friday, April 27, 2007

Did Hatch pressure staffers to blog on this site?

The Pioneer Press has an excellent story about the situation at the AG's office that even gives our blog a mention. Here is the reference to our blog:

.... Speculation and concern in recent weeks about the escalator out of the attorney general's office led Mark Cohen, editor in chief of the weekly Minnesota Lawyer, to comment on the matter in a blog Saturday. More than 40 commenters rapidly piled on before Cohen ended the string Thursday morning, saying it was becoming unproductive.

Among the comments were several laudatory posts praising Swanson and signed by staff members. One former employee accused Hatch of pressuring staff to post positive comments on the blog, in one case even writing a comment for the staffer.

Hatch denied doing so. "I haven't written any blogs," he said. "In fact, I don't even have an e-mail address." ... (For the full story, see State attorney general's office in shake-up.)

Wow. Those posts coming out of the AG's Office did look orchestrated, but sinking so low as to actually write a comment for a staffer? To pressure others to blog? This from a man who was a few votes shy of being elected the governor of this state?

If any of this is true, I offer my condolences to all the affected individuals . That was not what this blog was supposed to be about, and that type of abuse would be insupportable. I would be happy to offer my cooperation with any sort of investigation. Unbelievable.

In any event, now that the purpose of our blog entry on the AG's Office is out of the bag, I have published below the full story behind our use of this blog to help bring this story to light.


Peter Krieser said...

I wish to assure the readers of this Blog that my submission to the thread at 11:21 a.m. Wednesday April 25, 2007 was truthful, and was not the result of pressure or coercion from Attorney General Swanson, Mike Hatch, or any other person in the Attorney General's Office (AGO.).

The integrity and quality of the lawyers in the AGO has been impugned by various anonymous writers. I believe the background and experience, noted below, has provided me with the ability to recognize lawyers, who are talented, dedicated, and excel in the profession. Before joining the AGO I spent 26 years in private practice in both medium and small firms. During that time, I served on the Supreme Court Board of Legal Certification, the Board of Governors of the MSBA, HCBA, and MTLA (Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association.) I was named lawyer of the year by the MTLA, and was chair of the MSBA's Trial Lawyer Certification Council.

During the past eight years, while working at the AGO, I have had the opportunity to observe Lori Swanson as a Deputy Attorney General, Solicitor General, and Attorney General. Based on my experience and observation, Attorney General Swanson, continually, impresses me with her knowledge, grasp of issues and genuine concern for people. She is friendly, open, and personable with the entire staff.

Regarding other lawyers in the AGO. I would gladly have, as a partner in private practice, any of the lawyers in the AGO division in which I work. They are excellent attorneys. Further, it has been my observation that the other lawyers and staff members in this office have been and continue to be highly competent, dedicated, helpful, and skilled attorneys. It has been my observation that almost all of those who leave the AGO, retire or leave for higher paying jobs in the private sector, not due to low morale issues.

Finally, it is disheartening and disturbing to know there are persons who would anonymously represent to your readers, that the other AGO attorneys, who have written in support of Attorney General Swanson's administration, and I, have forwarded anything but voluntary and truthful submissions to your blog. I hope this information will assist in removing that misconception.

Peter J. Krieser.
Assistant Attorney General

Anonymous said...

Thank you Peter for responding to this issue. I don't doubt your experience or integrity. You're a top flight guy. There is, however, two questions/issues that you did not respond to...

Did anybody, including Mike Hatch, Lori Swanson, or Al Gilbert, ask or suggest to you that you should submit a comment on the site or talk to you about the website prior to your post? I'm not talking about pressure or coercion. I'm just asking about whether there was a conversation with you by anybody, including the named people above, at any time prior to the post.

Do you have a filter on your work computer that would've ordinarily blocked your access to a message board or blog? If so, who or how was that filter lifted to enable you to post.

I assume since you responded to the post, that a reporter calling for comment and follow-up questions would be responded to on-the-record.

Anonymous said...

A previous poster said:

"[Swanson] is friendly, open, and personable with the entire staff."

That is one person's opinion. It is not a statement of fact, nor is it an opinion shared by the vast majority of people who work at the AGO.

Furthermore, any attempt to minimize "low morale issues" at the AGO would be laughable if it wasn't so seriously out of touch with reality. Many dedicated employees are being seriously affected by the current situation at the AGO, at a signifcant cost to the taxpayers I might add.

Finally, some of the signed testimonials from AGO employees that have appeared in this blog appear to be in violation of Minnesota Statute 43A.32, subd. 1: "No employee shall, directly or indirectly, during hours of employment...take part in any political activity." I think using state resources and equipment during business hours to defend an elected official from "attacks" construed to be political in nature (which is how the AG referred to them in her recent statements to the press) can only be seen as an overt political activity itself. Even if one doesn't agree that these blog-amonials are political in nature, it begs a number of serious questions for the AG and her employees who purportedly authored these posts.

Should the taxpayers be footing the bill when professional state employees feel compelled to defend their boss?

Is "stump-blogging" part of these AAG's job descriptions?

Shouldn't these people be more concerned about the "real" work the taxpayers -- and voters -- expect them to be doing instead of spending time during the work day perusing the blogosphere?

References (thanks to The InvestigatorAM for tabulating the posting info):

Wednesday, April 25, 10:17 AM – Mark Ireland
Wednesday, April 25, 11:21 AM – Peter Krieser
Wednesday, April 25, 11:23 AM – Bill Klumpp
Wednesday, April 25, 1:54 PM – Manuel Cervantes
Wednesday, April 25, 3:18 PM – Erik Johnson

Three additional comments from self-identified AG employees came after 5:00 PM. [It's not unreasonable to assume that some or all of these were made using state resources.] They are:

Wednesday, April 25 – 5:44 PM – Sean McCarthy
Wednesday, April 25 – 6:21 PM - Chuck Roehrdanz
Wednesday, April 25 – 7:19 PM – Greg Schaefer