A state senator wants to know what security risks justified the installation of two security doors valued at $15,000 in the attorney general's office.
Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, sent a letter Thursday asking the legislative auditor to look into why Attorney General Lori Swanson should be concerned about security in her office and what recommendations a 2007 security assessment had made.
Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles said the questions are likely to be part of a larger audit of the attorney general's office scheduled to begin in May.
Hann's letter followed reports that Swanson, a DFLer, sought a security assessment after taking office in 2007 and that the two solid oak doors were installed shortly afterward.
Swanson has said the doors replaced two with windows leading into her office. Each of the doors, described as sound-attenuating in billing records, was valued at about $5,000, with installation requiring an additional $2,500 apiece.
Hann's letter also asked Nobles' office to investigate the timing of the installation, which was ordered within weeks of reports of office turmoil over some attorneys attempting to organize a union. Installation of the doors and a $6,000 replacement of carpeting in Swanson's office were first reported by WCCO-TV, generating questions about whether they were a wise use of taxpayer dollars.
"I'm concerned about what happened with the security assessment that she says that she conducted. What was done with that assessment? Who paid for it? What was the scope of it?" asked Hann, a member of the Legislative Audit Commission.
"It seems a little strange to me that it occurred without anyone else knowing there were security issues at the Capitol. If a constitutional officer says we have a security risk that requires some extraordinary things to be done, I think that should be known," he said.
Late Thursday, Swanson's office said the assessment was done in March 2007 by Denny Flaherty, former St. Paul deputy mayor and current executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. Swanson's office said the assessment was done at her request and was done for free.
In his report, Flaherty, whom Swanson regarded as an expert on security matters, detailed concerns about her being the first female attorney general and reviewed several incidents in which the attorney general might be vulnerable. Among other recommendations that Swanson's office declined to disclose for security reasons, Flaherty advised the solid doors be installed.
Nobles said his office is about to begin a regularly scheduled audit of the attorney general's office in May, which is likely to take several months. In addition, the office is in the process of studying Capitol security, which probably will include issues of accessibility and minimizing risks.
Mark Brunswick • 651-222-1636