Conflict on the council?

St. Paul – A recent newspaper article has exposed a rift among
some members of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and led
to one member calling for the censure of another.

A recent Star Tribune story about a 187,000-acre forest easement
for which the council and Legislature approved $36 million in
Legacy funds, in part, explored whether council chair Mike Kilgore
had a conflict of interest when he voted for the project.

The story did not conclude there was a conflict, and Kilgore –
in that article and others – denied one existed.

But quotes in the story from Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St.
Paul and a member of the council, were damaging, said Jim Cox, vice
chair of the L-SOHC. (Hansen, who was unavailable Tuesday morning,
said in another Star Tribune story that he didn’t believe a
conflict existed.)

“They were damaging,” Cox said. “Not only to Mike (Kilgore), but
to the council as a whole.”

As a result, Cox asked Kilgore if the L-SOHC’s five-member
executive committee should meet and consider recommending action
against Hansen.

The executive committee includes Kilgore and Cox, as well as
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, Darby Nelson, and David

Last week, Cox said it wouldn’t be until after the July 4
holiday that all members could be contacted to gauge their

Ingebrigtsen believes things should be discussed in a meeting of
the full council.

“I don’t know that you can censure (Hansen),” he said. “I don’t
know that we have to have an executive committee meeting. Let’s
have it on the agenda when everyone is there and let’s have it out
face to face with everybody.”

In an email to Outdoor News, council member Ryan Bronson wrote:
“As a member of the Lessard-Sams Council, I want the public to know
that while I often disagree with Rick Hansen’s position on specific
issues, I fully support his right to hold those positions and to
advocate for what he believes. I oppose efforts to remove him from
the council by the council. I don’t believe we have the legal
authority to take such action, nor do I believe we have the moral
authority – as a democratic body members have the right to dissent,
both within council proceedings, in public and in the press.”

Cox says that he’s lost trust in Hansen, who he says has been
“hard to deal with.”

On various occasions, Hansen has been the lone dissenting voice
on the council. He voted against the council’s first set of
recommendations last year, for example.

In an email Tuesday morning, Andrew Wittenborg, director of
public affairs for the House DFL caucus, wrote on behalf of Hansen:
“With regard to the 11-1 votes recorded by the council, Rep. Hansen
believes in judging each project on its merits and that means there
will occasionally be disagreements.”

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