DFL operative resigns from economic agency over hiring flap

EVELETH, Minn. (AP) — A prominent Iron Range Democrat who was hired for a civil service position after the job posting time was shortened from 21 days to 24 hours announced his resignation on Thursday.
Longtime Democratic operative and former state legislator Joe Radinovich said in his resignation letter to the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board that the circumstances behind his employment have “taken the focus off that work and placed it elsewhere.” He was hired at the Eveleth-based economic development agency in March.
The issue came to light when the weekly Timberjay newspaper reported about the posting change and cited an organizational chart produced by board staff nearly a week before the posting that listed Radinovich in the job.
IRRR Human Resources Director Barbara Sanders said in a Feb. 14 memo requesting the short posting period that it was necessary because there was an “urgent need’ to fill the position and “meet the expectations of selection and onboarding as expressed” by the Minnesota governor’s office.
Democratic Gov. Tim Walz said after the newspaper report that the expedited hire was made without his knowledge and he vowed to tighten hiring rules. He issued a one-sentence statement Thursday calling Radinovich’s move “a meaningful step to restore trust and refocus the IRRRB on its important work serving the people” of northeastern Minnesota.
GOP Rep. Sandy Layman, of Cohasset, a former IRRRB commissioner, was among several Republicans who issued releases Thursday criticizing the way Radinovich was hired.
“The incident was embarrassing for the organization and I have many questions that still need to be answered about the process and the involvement of the governor’s office,” Layman said.
Radinovich was one of two people interviewed for the job, according to the Timberjay. The other candidate, Lorrie Janatopoulus, has a master’s degree, won a prestigious Bush Fellowship and has worked for numerous nonprofit boards.
Radinovich wrote that his resignation will be effective April 30 “to ensure the continuity of my work through a brief transition period.”