Cathy Hamm reinstated in DNR post

St. Paul – Capt. Cathy Hamm, who was fired from the DNR last
year in the fallout from a 2007 conservation officers conference,
will be reinstated after an independent arbitrator ruled her
termination was unjust.

Her position – central region manager – has been open since she
was terminated in the middle of last October. Hamm filed a
grievance after her firing.

“The grievance is sustained,” arbitrator Stephen Befort wrote in
his report, issued last week. “The (DNR) is directed to reinstate
the grievant and to make her whole for any resulting loss in pay
and benefits less any compensation earned in mitigation.”

Hamm and her husband, Mike – who was forced to retire his
position as chief enforcement officer – were heavily involved in
the planning and execution of the conference. In a 2008 report, the
state legislative auditor said the DNR misspent about $300,000 in
public money on the conference.

Mike Hamm initially was fired, but then allowed to retire. DNR
Deputy Commissioner Laurie Martinson was the only agency employee
outside of the Hamms to be punished for actions related to the
conference. Martinson was placed on three days of unpaid leave for
“inadequate review of a special expense authorization.”

Cathy Hamm, according to the arbitrator’s report, also asked for
permission to retire, but DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten denied her
request.

In a statement at the time, Holsten said: “The action was taken
because investigations uncovered serious employee misconduct
pertaining to management of public funds, failure to follow DNR
procedures, and violations of the DNR’s harassment and
discrimination policy.”

Just before the arbitration hearing between Cathy Hamm and the
DNR – in August of this year – the agency dropped the
discrimination and harassment charges. Data privacy laws prevent
the DNR from disclosing why those allegations were dropped, or from
talking about the case, according to DNR spokeswoman Colleen
Coyne.

“We have received the Arbitrator’s Award and will comply fully,”
she said in an email.

In coming to his conclusion, the arbitrator considered only
Cathy Hamm’s role in planning and implementing the officers
conference. In terminating her, Holsten listed four reasons:
failure to establish a code for tracking time spent on the
conference; establishment of registration fees for Minnesota
officers that were higher than for officers of other states;
fund-raising on state time and violation of the agency’s Gift
Acceptance Policy; and for inappropriate use of state time and
property to benefit the North American Wildlife Enforcement
Officers Association and Minnesota Conservation Officer’s
Association.

Befort touched on each allegation, and wrote “Šthe DNR
Commissioner’s office needed to communicate clear objectives
detailing expectations and limitations. Its failure to do so is the
principle factor contributing to this controversy.”

He went on to write: “In the end, the only plausible way in
which Cathy Hamm could be held accountable for the problems alleged
with respect to the NAWEOA conference is if the following two
factual findings could be established: 1) that Colonel Mike Hamm
decided to devote agency time and resources to conference
activities in direct contravention of the Commissioner’s order to
the contrary; and 2) that Cathy Hamm, by virtue of her marriage to
Mike Hamm, was necessarily a knowing collaborator in this strategy.
The first point has not been determined since it is not an issue at
this proceeding. The second point, quite simply, would require an
inappropriate assumption. The (DNR) has not carried its burden to
show that Captain Hamm engaged in the misconduct as alleged.”

Categories: News Archive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *