By Mike Kaszuba
The investigation into a consulting contract given to Chas Anderson, a former state deputy education commissioner, has gotten more complicated.
The Minnesota Management and Budget Office (MMB), which is conducting the review, has asked for a state advisory opinion to determine whether its findings should be made public. MMB Commissioner Tom Hanson, Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s top budget official, said his office has concluded that the report should be public, but is seeking a formal state opinion.
But an attorney for Anderson, who was widely regarded as Pawlenty’s top spokesperson on education issues, is arguing it should not be public.
Anderson left the state Department of Education on June 4. Three days later, she signed a $5,000 consulting contract with the department to help state officials write an application to help obtain federal grant money. State officials quickly cancelled the contract and Anderson, who was scheduled to be paid $75 an hour, was never paid.
After Anderson served as Pawlenty’s deputy campaign manager in 2002, the governor appointed her as an assistant education commissioner in 2003. She was later promoted to deputy commissioner, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the department, and had a $108,000-a-year salary when she left the department.
Laurie Beyer-Kropuenske, director of the state’s Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD), said the advisory opinion would examine whether the final report as well as “supporting or underlying data” should be considered public information. Beyer-Kropuenske said the opinion would be completed by Oct. 15.
Tammy Pust, an attorney representing Anderson, argued in an Aug. 20 letter that state officials were required by law to keep the investigation’s findings private. Pust said there were at least two reasons the report should not be public: Anderson was not the subject of disciplinary action while she was employed by the state, and she had already left her job when the investigation began.
“While MMB did conduct an investigation, it did not conduct ‘an investigation. . .against a public official,’ “ Pust said.
“Ms. Anderson was not a public official when the investigation was commenced, and is not now a public official,” said Pust. “The fact that she was formerly a public official is irrelevant to the statutory language.”
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