Dayton's personal chef, housekeeper become political targets

Micah Pace and Michele Mersereau woke up yesterday as a chef and a housekeeper, respectively, but by day's end they were a political controversy.

The two women are among 20 "essential staff" that have continued working for Mark Dayton during the shutdown, according to a report from Politics in Minnesota. Most job titles, like "Chief of Staff" and "Senior Policy Adviser" seemed obvious choices.

But two of them stuck out, and became quick targets for the state's Republican Party.

Politics in Minnesota's report said that Dayton's staff had essentially been cut in half since July 1. That wasn't good enough for the Republicans, who seized on Pace and Mersereau in a new flier.

In the bulletin Pace and Mersereau -- with their salaries next to their names -- are described as "essential to Gov. Dayton." The same ad also lists major state services that won't continue, and are therefore "not essential" during "Gov. Dayton's shutdown."

Yesterday afternoon, Dayton's spokeswoman Katherine Tinucci began contacting reporters to say the flier is wrong. Pace, who receives a $45,017 salary as the governor's chef, is no longer on the state payroll. Tinucci said Dayton had decided before the shutdown started to pay out-of-pocket for Pace's cooking.

Tinucci conceded that Mersereau's $35,015 salary would still come from the state. But she said that Mersereau's work is essential, because the Governor's Mansion is a historic site, and needs full-time upkeep.

So there you have it. It is officially not essential for the state of Minnesota to have a well-fed governor. But it is essential that he has clean windows and dust-free bookshelves.


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