Our blog has moved, and is new and improved.

You should be automatically redirected in 3 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

This looks like a prior Hatch purge

Something clicked when I saw Attorney General Lori Swanson's comment in the press that the departures and the way they were being handled was just a normal transition. And then I realized what it was: Swanson has only been part of one other transition of power at the AG's Office before -- when Hatch took over in 1999.

I recall that transition well. I became editor of Minnesota Lawyer right about the time that Hatch was elected to his first term as AG. Skip Humphrey had vacated the AG's Office to pursue a gubernatorial bid, and Hatch, a fellow DFLer, was elected to replace him. Everyone initially thought the transition would not be too bad because both Humphrey and Hatch were from the same party. What followed was a bloodletting on an unprecedented scale. Somewhere around 100 people lost their jobs.

Of course, Humphrey had been there a very long time, so one could argue that change and reshaping an office can be a positive thing to revitalize an organization (although 100 people in an office that size strikes me as excessive.) But what really bothered me was the way these firings were handled. The callousness and lack of empathy for how these people would feel being thrown out on the street after years of service in such an abusive fashion.

When Dan Heilman, the Minnesota Lawyer reporter covering this story, came to me about a month ago with the ruminations he had heard about the situation at the AG's Office, the only part of the story that I found shocking was the allegations from sources that Hatch and Swanson were engaged in union busting. Allegations that a former DFL candidate for governor and a DFL attorney general were taking a sledgehammer to a union? You've got to be joking, I thought. (Of course it has yet to be shown how much merit those accusations have, but the union is certainly having a labor-related disagreement with the AG’s Office. I am still hopeful that Swanson was not directly involved if strong-arm tactics were used.) But, while the union angle was a complete surprise to me, the brutality of the transition was par for the course when Hatch is involved.

We have been able to use the new blog technology to facilitate the reporting of this story. It’s a hard to stifle such a story now. However, it is quite telling if, in fact, Hatch did resort to trying to corrupt the blogging process by doing the electronic version of stuffing the ballot box. Such machine-style tactics have no place in the real world today -- and certainly no place in the virtual world. Hatch may be the first former attorney general in the state’s history guilty of forcing others into involuntary bloggitude.

In any event, I am going to post below an extremely large excerpt from the story Minnesota Lawyer published in June 1999 on the effect on the staff of Hatch taking over the AG’s office. I think you will find the story eerily similar to what is going on now. In fact, you could change a couple of names and run this 1999 story as a news piece on the current happenings at the AG’s Office. I apologize in advance for the length of the post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kari Ferguson, mentioned in several news articles, is an excellent example of why a labor union would be appropriate in the attorney general’s office. That young woman received a letter of commendation and a raise from the Attorney General no less than 3 weeks ago. Then, without warning, she was summoned to the capitol to be fired. She was not given a reason for this sudden turnaround. Had there honestly been a performance issue, Ms. Ferguson could have been informed of the issues by her manager and given suggestions for improvement, been given a timeline in which the improvements needed to be made, been put on probation. But instead, she was cold-cocked and kicked to the curb in the blink of an eye. As this blog has observed, this technique is a well-known pattern. It’s not “natural” and it’s not fair. It’s heartless and abusive. A union of employees could negotiate a contract that made firing for cause the practice at the attorney general’s office.