As the state rolled out its troubled health insurance exchange, MNsure managers received bonus pay totaling $26,354 for work done in the three months leading up to the Oct. 1 launch.

In all, 14 managers were awarded lump-sum payments that ranged from 1.5 to 2.5 percent of their annual salaries, according to state data. It was based on work done from July 1 to Sept. 30. Former Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov, who resigned in December in the midst of the problems, did not receive a bonus.

Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, raised the issue of bonuses in a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton this week, prompted by a report on executive salaries that was conducted for lawmakers.

"Given the chaos that was rampant within MNsure, this is reminiscent of the worst excesses of Wall Street," wrote Hoppe, a member of a bipartisan MNsure oversight committee.

MNsure officials noted that the decision to award bonuses occurred before the problems were exposed and before interim CEO Scott Leitz took over. Spokeswoman Jenni Bowring-McDonough said that "no performance incentives have been or will be issued for the fourth quarter."

The Legislature last year approved changes to how managers are compensated, which meant 16 MNsure employees were eligible for a compensation plan. They received a 3 percent raise on July 1 that was added to their base salaries.

The managers also are eligible for an additional lump-sum "performance increase" of up to 10 percent, based on an assessment of specific goals for each employee.

A Dayton spokesman said the governor wasn't tracking MNsure's staffing decisions, because by law the agency operates independently of his office.

"It is led by an executive director and governed by an appointed board of directors," press secretary Matt Swenson said in a statement. "They have complete authority to set and administer MNsure's personnel policies. The governor's office was neither involved in, nor aware, of MNsure's bonuses."

MNsure Board Chairman Brian Beutner said that while the board approves compensation for the executive director, it leaves staffing decisions to the top executive.

He noted that the work leading up to the launch cleared hurdles set by the federal government, and that the site opened as promised on Oct. 1. By their nature, performance metrics are set up ahead of time as incentives, regardless of subsequent events, Beutner noted.

"At the time, I'm certain evaluations were done correctly," he said.

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335