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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Hatch's legendary temper

From today's Pioneer Press:

In interviews, several former top lawyers from the office linked the wave of departures to Swanson's decision to put former Attorney General Mike Hatch back on the office payroll.

At least nine current and former assistant attorneys general have told the Pioneer Press that the stream of departures and dismissals since January is indelibly linked to Swanson's decision to return Hatch to the office. Former employees accuse Hatch, who now works out of Swanson's old 14th-floor office in downtown St. Paul, of exerting too much control.

Hatch's red-hot temper is the stuff of office lore. [Bob Stanich, a former high level attorney at the AG's office who left in 2002] described being called into Hatch's office one day when Hatch complained of spotting an assistant attorney general reading a newspaper in the library during a lunch break.

"He called the man lazy and then went off on a couple of other things," Stanich said. "He was beet red in the face and pounding on the desk. I frankly was frightened. I had never seen anything like that." ...

For the full article, click here.

Hmmm. Hope it was not Minnesota Lawyer he was reading.

In any case, check back to this blog later if you have the chance. I am going to see if I can retrieve some info that would make for an interesting post.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is this a blog about Mike Hatch?

I'm no Hatch spy or anything (really, I'm not ... bwhahaha), but he's done great things for Minnesota. His personality is definitely a liability, but I'd trade that for his professional ethics and his office's results.

- Local Law Student

Anonymous said...

assuming there's an office left after everyone leaves, i mean.

- Local Law Student

Anonymous said...

Mr. Cohen:

Good for you for starting this long-overdue examination of the Attorney General's Office. You are missing the point, however, with your post about no positive comments on Hatch and wondering if he could have forced employees to make positive posts about Swanson (or just did it himself). It is understandable that you would be reticent to reach that conclusion, but everything about Hatch's career points to exactly that conduct. There is one criteria for action with Hatch: is it good for Hatch's political career or can he delight in stepping on someone he doesn't like.

Hatch sees Swanson as just an extension of himself (so protecting her is protecting him). After his defeat, Hatch used Swanson as Voldemort used a host body to inhabit in his reincarnation in Harry Potter. This is the Hatch II administration.

Hatch probably either forced a bunch of employees to post those obviously fake statements on your site or he just did it himself. What were they going to say: "no, I don't need a paycheck and health insurance." Hatch fires people all the time for much less-- he sees AG Office lawyers as just interchangeable blobs.

In addition to the same writing style (which would be called "politicain stilted" if it were a typeface), consider this:

-- the posts were spaced out throughout the day to suggest he wrote one and then another;
-- the employees of the office are blocked from accessing sites like Minnesota Lawyer (or just about anything else), so they couldn't have posted the comments;
-- if they did post this stuff on worktime, wouldn't that be a violation of the tight control that Hatch exercises over employee personal use of computers;
-- at least one of the posts had a blatant error in the person's work history;
-- at least one of the posts came from an older attorney who may be unlikely to use internet blogs during the work day or any other time, or even knowing how to check out internet blogs...

and other oddities.

Does this matter? Take a step back. Let's assume that Hatch drafted or directed that all of these posts be drafted and then put them in front of his employees to approve (the likely scenario). No employer should ever engage in that kind of forced speech. But an employer of public attorneys with an obligation to the public interest and to be truthful? That is a breach of public trust; it may even be a violation of law (if nothing else, deceptive trade laws-- the irony drips).

Keep digging on this story. There are lots of details that need examination. The Attorney General's Office should be the pride of state government, as it once was....that will never happen with Hatch controlling the show.

Mark Cohen, editor said...

On the blogging issue, I was just trying to factor that out of the equation (he apparently forgot to blog in positive comments about himself.) If we go with a more likely than not standard, it appears Hatch did involve himself in the blogging (probably in the manner you describe).

What I don't get is, if you are going to try to orchestrate a response, why wouldn't you just have loyal lieutenants blog in? There is an allegation that one or more people who were resisting were pressured to participate, which, if true, is abominable.

In any case, it is easy to get me riled up on that whole issue since he may have been messing with our blog. We are getting plenty of visits without him forcing anybody to come here.

And by the way, what was his goal? Glowing posts would just have peeved off the union and aggrieved employees even more, making them more likely to come forward, not less. Those are the tactics of a small-time political Boss, not a man who would be governor. If he had been elected, would he have been doing those shenanigans from the governor's mansion?

Hatch's response when he was asked about this was evasive: "I don't even have an e-mail account."

What does that have to do anything? You do not need an e-mail account to do this. I will give him the chance to deny for the record that he had anything to do with those postings. If he will send a more specific denial saying that he had absolutely nothing to do with them, I will post it on this site. (I guess he will have to send that regular mail ...).

By the way, here is a topic for discussion, why is the "director of complex litigation" just about the only state employee without an e-mail address? Makes it seem like he is either a tech illiterate (in which case why is he leading "complex litigation"?) or, much more likely, working on things that somebody wants no electronic record of.

Anonymous said...

Per your questions:

1. "What I don't get is, if you are going to try to orchestrate a response, why wouldn't you just have loyal lieutenants blog in?

Remember all the stuff about micromanagement. When it is really big (and this is really big), Hatch does it himself (because no one else can be trusted).

2. And by the way, what was his goal? Glowing posts would just have peeved off the union and aggrieved employees even more, making them more likely to come forward, not less. Those are the tactics of a small-time political Boss, not a man who would be governor. If he had been elected, would he have been doing those shenanigans from the governor's mansion?

In short, yes. What everyone doesn't seem to get is that all these people streaming out of the office don't invent feeling like they have been kicked around. This guy has a big side of his personality that is like an old-style Chicago politician. And he doesn't care one cent what employee's think because you control employees with fear and intimidation. Interestingly, you also control ex-employees with fear that you will hurt them in ways big and small.

3. Hatch's response when he was asked about this was evasive: "I don't even have an e-mail account." What does that have to do anything?

As you suggest, nothing. It is a non-denial denial. Hatch has a computer in his office (perhaps two) that is not blocked like everyone else in the office.

4. By the way, here is a topic for discussion, why is the "director of complex litigation" just about the only state employee without an e-mail address?

Because "director of complex litigation" is complete bull. There is not and never has been such a department. It was just a cover name for "Hatch runs the office." In fact, there hardly is any consumer division left (at least the side of the consumer division with attorneys in it...I think there is one attorney, maybe two attorneys, and no manager-- unless Hatch counts as manager of that division).

To really understand this situation, you have to stop thinking about this as if this were some normal organization run by normal people who are making odd choices. Think of it as an organization with a very complicated leader who has an effective side, perhaps even a caring side, but with a deadly mob-like side that ultimately is the only thing you can see when you are on the inside because that is the part that beats you down and tears you up. And he got away with it for 8 years, so why does he think he can't beat this rap with the same tactics.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your honesty.

If I can make a suggestion -- I suspect that we have lots of Assistant AGs lurking around here now -- and also lots of reporters.

If you do have information to come forward with regarding your situation and current problems, this is most likely the best (maybe only) chance you will get to give us that information in a forum that might lead to a positive impact.

You have the option of complete anonymity on this board. You can call me a pessimist, but I don't think your issues will resolve if you don't bring them forward.

For example, what are the common elements in these firings and is Hach the primary responsible party. Why is he firing so many of his own people? As you point out, he seems to be effctively running a lot of things, so why does he suddenly want to get rid of folks that he worked with fine when he was AG? Is it just unionization? This shouldn't even be a transitional situation whe it goes from Hatch/Swanson to Swanson/ Hatch.

Anonymous said...

More evidence that Mike Hatch's influence on the operation of the Attorney General's office is not up to modern standards - I don't do email.
Because Mike doesn't feel comfortable with email and is paranoid about it, the entire office cannot respond quickly and effectively to citizens by email. Staff are prohibited from conducting any external communication by email, because every single piece of external communication (even routine correspondence) must be approved by the manager, the deputy (the manager's manager) and often Lori or Mike, and all prepared for Lori's signature. Lori doesn't even trust her own department or division managers, much less the career legal professionals on staff, to conduct state business appropriately. The unbelievably costly process of logging in, tracking, drafting, editing, and reviewing citizen correspondence is yet another tactic of undermining and demeaning staff, and using state taxpayer dollars to promote the political career of Lori Swanson. And, unfortunately, finding a way in three pages of correspondence to tell the citizen that we can't solve your problem, but here are five other agencies to which you could complain, inferring that it is, in fact, the responsibility of the Dept. of Commerce or the FTC, or the State Auditor or the Legislative Auditor to look into the matter, when such may not be the case. Selling the citizen a pipe dream and creating resentment against other agencies of government.


No email? Try mike.hatch@state.mn.us
and ask for a reply when received or read.

Finally, if Mike Hatch can intimidate a staff lawyer into posting a blog entry that promotes Lori Swanson, what is to stop him from asking a career employee to draft or file a document alleging some wrongdoing (which garners favorable publicity for Swanson) that is not completely true?

Mark Cohen, editor said...

Mike Hatch is definitely a driven politician. Lori Swanson does not seem to me to be the type to be so singularly motivated by political career. As you recall, she only put her name in for AG on the last possible filing day when Matt Entenza's campaign imploded (ironically brought about in part by a tussle with Hatch over investigating a parking ticket.)

Anonymous said...

Mark Cohen:

Your last post displays a complete misunderstanding of the situation and the players. Mike "hatched" a plan to run Lori for AG. He had dirt on Matt and waiting until the last week before filing to bring it out. That effectively discouraged other candidates from entering, but Lori was ready to go because that was the point of the plan. Kelly could jump in because he already a campaign operation. Luther was part of Mike's plan to elect Lori.

You treat Mike and Lori as completely different types of people. As indicated on a previous post, Lori does nothing (absolutely NOTHING) of even medium importance without instructions or guidance from Mike. I don't think she is a mean old SOB likely, but it comes to the same thing if she calls the mean old SOB for every move.

A said...

Am I the only person who stopped dead in his/her tracks at the revelation that the AG's office actually BLOCKS certain websites from being accessed. What is this? Communist China? If that's true - and I really, truly hope it isn't - then there's something really fundamentally wrong with the situation over there.

Anonymous said...

Silly you, "a."
Every responsible organization blocks websites--without reasonable security, organizations are vulnerable to being infected by viruses, spyware, etc. "Attack" sites, including infected blogs, are commonplace. It's far more effective and cheaper to be proactive and limit access than to constantly search for security damage and try to fix it after the fact.