As new regent, Sviggum didn't disclose U job

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 22, 2011 - 10:02 PM

Two days after he was elected to the U's Board of Regents, Steve Sviggum submitted a form that did not list Humphrey School fellowship. He revised the form a few weeks later.

Steve Sviggum

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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Weeks after signing a contract for a half-time job with the University of Minnesota, Steve Sviggum failed to list his new gig on a disclosure form required of members of the U's Board of Regents.

That fact may hurt him as he seeks to remain a member of the governing board and a legislative fellow at the U's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. A committee is looking into whether it is a conflict of interest for Sviggum to hold both spots.

On his financial disclosure form, released at a Tuesday meeting of that committee, Sviggum lists just one source of compensation: the sale of corn, soybeans and beef cattle as a part of the Sviggum Bros. Farm Partnership.

He submitted that form on Feb. 23 -- two days after the Legislature elected him to the board and 19 days after he signed a contract with the Humphrey School. He submitted a revised form on March 8, listing his $80,000 salary at the Humphrey School, as well as his wife's employment.

Sviggum said Tuesday that "throughout this entire process... I have been very, very transparent about any relationship with the Humphrey School."

He has long taught as an adjunct professor there, but the new job pays more and requires more time and different responsibilities. In his November application for the Board of Regents, Sviggum answered the question about conflict of interest by saying that "full disclosure and transparency is important." He continued: "To that point: I am an adjunct professor at the Humphrey Institute."

The Regent Candidate Advisory Council, the citizen group that recruits and screens candidates, talked with Sviggum about his teaching, said Jane Belau, the council's chair.

As an adjunct professor in 2008, 2009 and fall 2010, Sviggum taught one three-credit course a semester, for which he earned about $6,000, according to documents collected by the Board of Regents office. Other documents include: Sviggum's Feb. 4 contract to be a legislative fellow in the U's Humphrey School, excerpts from an interview to become a regent, and the board's code of ethics.

Next week, the committee could recommend what Sviggum should do: Choose between his two positions, edit his contract with the Humphrey School, or keep both jobs as-is, but with a "conflict-of-interest management plan," which would outline when Sviggum would abstain from a discussion and vote.

"We are concerned both about the reality of conflicts and we're concerned about the perception of conflicts," said Clyde Allen, chair of the board.

The full board will make a final decision.

Sviggum, who spoke with committee members by phone Tuesday, pointed out that "there's a pretty big difference between a legislative fellowship and a professorship."

For example, Sviggum's contract requires him to raise private funds for all but $12,000 of his salary. But that contract also notes that Sviggum's salary "is subject to the 1.15 percent temporary pay reduction called for by the President of the University of Minnesota" -- and voted on by the Board of Regents.

Once Allen raised concerns, Sviggum said he stopped fundraising, one of the duties he agreed to in his contract.

"I have not had any other fundraising appointments for the university since that time on March 7," he said.

Allen said many people in the general public and on the faculty have contacted him about Sviggum's situation.

"They all are of one mind -- that the two positions are incompatible," Allen said. He added, speaking of the regents: "We have not made that judgment yet."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

  • UPCOMING

    Committee meeting: 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, West Committee Room, 600 McNamara Alumni Center

    Board of Regents meeting: Noon Thursday, March 31, Board room, 600 McNamara Alumni Center

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