Since the news was first reported two weeks ago that the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) had hired State Senator David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm) to be the organization's new executive director while Tomassoni continued to serve in the Minnesota Senate, the issue has continued to generate headlines.
This week, the Ely City Council voted to withhold a $600 dues payment to RAMS until the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board issues a ruling on whether Tomassoni can work for RAMS while also serving in the Minnesota Senate.
The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board may provide guidance to public officials on potential conflicts of interest. But there is no requirement that the opinion issued by the board about Tomassoni's new job will be made public, nor will the board's deliberations likely be public.
The Minnesota Senate has created an internal procedure for members and staff to receive advisory opinions on potential conflicts of interest. The Permanent Rules of the Minnesota Senate establishes that one of the major responsibilities of the Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct is "to provide its advice on a potential conflict of interest" to members and staff.
Over the last 18 years, Republican and DFL state senators have voluntarily requested a meeting of the Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct to examine if potential conflicts of interest existed related to their private employment and public service in the Minnesota Senate.
When a member of the Minnesota Senate requests a public hearing of the Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct, it ensures that both the deliberations of the committee and the final decision if any conflict of interest exists will be made public, which ensures maximum transparency. The announcement that Tomassoni would seek an advisory opinion from the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board has the apperance of trasnparency.
But by following the procedure created by the Minnesota Senate and used by numerous state senators, Tomassoni would allow the public to learn more about his new private employment and if any conflicts exists with his public service with the Minnesota Senate.
Picture source: Minnesota Senate
UPDATE: Staff at the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board said today that Sen. Tomassoni has requested all material related to his request for an advisory opinion to be publicly released. Sen. Tomassoni has also requested that his name be listed as the person seeking the advisory opinion. The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board will now deliberate in a public meeting of the board, as required by Minnesota Statute 13D.05.