Vouching For Cronies

EARLIER THIS YEAR, Governor Arne Carlson avoided conflict-of-interest charges when he selected his sister-in-law for a state judgeship, pointing out that she had been approved by a bipartisan screening committee. But one state legislator is now charging the governor with "hypocrisy" for rejecting the first Native American nominee to the state Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees--who successfully screened before the candidate advisory committee--in favor of a white male lawyer who did not even go before the group.

The spurned nominee, Judy Roy of the Red Lake reservation, was approved by 17 of 23 bi-partisan selectors, but Carlson instead chose William A. Smoley, who was recruited at the last minute by the Governor's chief of staff, Bernie Omann. "It's troubling," says State Rep. Tony Kinkel (DFL-Park Rapids). "Carlson is saying that when it's your sister-in-law, it's okay to honor a legislatively created task force, but when it comes to an excellently qualified Native American woman, who follows the rules, who's legitimately qualified, who's chosen on the first ballot, you can reject her for a white male lawyer. It's pure hypocrisy."

Kinkel notes that the state board, which controls institutions such as Metro State and Normandale Community College in the metro area, is becoming an increasingly vital part of the educational system. "With restricted-admissions policies such as U2000 at the University of Minnesota, state colleges and universities are the only ones left with open enrollment," Kinkel says. "We will have a lot more diverse student body, yet across the country, 90 percent of educational board trustees are white, 80 percent are men, and 70 percent are lawyers. To pass on a candidate of Roy's qualifications and life experience is tragic."

The governor's office did not return City Pages' phone calls, but Kinkel says Omann told him Roy did not "fit the governor's education philosophy."

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