Gov. Tim Pawlenty's leading spokesperson on education issues was given a $5,000 consulting contract from the state Department of Education three days after she left the department in June as its deputy commissioner.
State officials released copies of the contract Wednesday as the state Management and Budget Office continues an investigation of Chas Anderson, who left the department on June 4. As deputy commissioner, Anderson was responsible for the department's day-to-day operations and championed many of the governor's education initiatives, including the controversial alternative teacher compensation program known as Quality Compensation for Teachers, or Q Comp.
But the contract showed that on Monday, June 7 -- she left the department the previous Friday -- she signed an agreement to help write a grant application for the department to try to obtain federal Teacher Incentive Fund money, which provided funds for performance-based teacher and principal compensation programs in high-need schools. Under the contract, Anderson was to be paid $75 an hour to complete the grant application by July 6.
However state officials said the contract was quickly canceled.
Anderson declined Wednesday to discuss the contract. "I've actually hired [a spokesman] to deal with the media," said Anderson, who hung up her phone as a reporter attempted to interview her. A spokesman for Anderson at Goff & Howard, a St. Paul-based public relations agency, dismissed the controversy, saying that while Anderson was the "best possible person" for the job because of her knowledge, the contract was canceled and she was never paid.
Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, chairman of the House K-12 Education Finance Committee, said Anderson's contract was an example of "a lot of things in the Department of Education that don't pass the smell test." She said that Anderson was often referred to as "Commissioner Chas Anderson" because she effectively ran the department and even "butted in" when Commissioner Alice Seagren attempted to talk to legislators. Greiling said that Anderson, whom she called "a person of integrity," was nonetheless "the 'hit woman' for Pawlenty" on education issues and was seen as a "hard ass" when legislators dealt with the governor's office.
Others disagreed. Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, a leading Republican legislator on education issues, said paying Anderson as a consultant "seems like a pretty good investment," given her expertise and the work involved in dealing with complicated federal applications. "In my opinion, [she was] the leading education reformer in the Department of Education," he said.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Education, where Anderson had worked since 2003 when Pawlenty appointed her as an assistant commissioner, said the department would have little comment. "It is not appropriate for the department to further discuss this proposal at this time," said spokesperson Christine Dufour.
Similarly Bruce Gordon, a Pawlenty spokesman, declined to comment and referred all questions to the Management and Budget Office, which is headed by Commissioner Tom Hanson, the governor's top budget official. Hanson's department reiterated Wednesday that an investigation of Anderson was continuing but did not provide new details. "This complaint is open and under review," said spokesman Curt Yoakum.
Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673