By Danielle Nordine
Former House Speaker Steve Sviggum today resigned from the University of Minnesota governing board after an ad hoc committee found he had a conflict of interest by also working for the state Senate Republican caucus.
“This hurts bad,” Sviggum said during an emotional meeting of the board of regents. “It is with a heavy heart that I sit before you.”
Sviggum, a Kenyon Republican, maintained that he sees no conflict in being a regent while serving as a top aide to Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester.
He said he would resign for the good of the board, the university and state.
Board chairwoman Linda Cohen said Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature will be responsible for filing Sviggum regent position.
Sviggum gave his speech to the board and then left without further immediate comment.
When he was appointed a regent, Sviggum worked at university, which was found to be in violation of rules that prohibited university employees from sitting on the board. He left the university job.
Sviggum has contended that he makes no decisions in his role as GOP aide and communications director for Senate Republicans, so cannot see a conflict.
Cohen obtained two legal opinions that said there is a conflict of interest, but Sviggum’s attorney issued an opinion with the opposite result. Cohen said she was concerned because Sviggum appeared to be mixing politics with university governance.