Legislative panel splits over recommending new regent

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 3, 2012 - 10:59 PM

After two split votes Tuesday, a legislative committee decided not to recommend a candidate for the University of Minnesota Board of Regents seat vacated by Steve Sviggum.

A strong majority of House members on the joint committee supported Thomas Devine, of Chanhassen, an executive at the David Agency, an Edina insurance agency, and a longtime U volunteer. A slim majority of Senate members voted for Robert Vogel, of Elko New Market, president and chief executive officer of New Market Bank.

A third candidate, Kelly Smith, superintendent of the Belle Plaine School District, got just a few votes and was eliminated from the second round.

The full Legislature will vote Wednesday on a regent to represent the Second Congressional District.

Between the two votes, legislators discussed the fact that after redistricting, Devine will no longer live in the district. Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, argued that the group ought to choose a regent who will live within the new boundaries.

Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, however, pointed out that the student representative to the Board of Regents is elected as a student but regularly graduates a year or two into the six-year term.

Lawmakers quizzed the three candidates on issues of funding, research and drinking at TCF Bank Stadium. They also asked what the candidates would do, if selected, to reduce administrative costs.

Because it's late in the session, legislators had decided to reconsider three past candidates for the board seat instead of starting a new search.

Devine, Smith and Vogel also were interviewed last year by the Regent Candidate Advisory Council, the citizen group that screens and recommends candidates for the U's governing board. That council had recommended Devine, Sviggum and Laura Brod as candidates for the Second Congressional District seat.

The Republican-controlled Legislature picked Sviggum, former speaker of the House, for that seat and Brod, a former Republican representative, for an at-large spot. Many DFL lawmakers voted for Devine.

Sviggum resigned after a year of controversy and two conflict-of-interest inquiries.

He gave up his unpaid spot on the U's governing board in March, after the regents determined that his paid job as communications chief for the Senate Republican caucus created at least the appearance of a possible conflict and called on Sviggum to choose between the two posts.

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

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