Thoughts on LCCMR director’s firing… What the hell is going on?!

Given that the state Republican Party has been swimming upstream
against a river of nasty, even bizarre news reports the past couple
of weeks, party operatives chose an odd time to declare they had
the right to terminate the employment of the LCCMR head.

The Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources doles
out the funds that enter the Environmental Trust Fund from the
lottery, and to my knowledge, its staff always has passed the
nonpartisan litmus test with flying colors.

On Monday, however, Susan Thornton, director of the LCCMR was
fired. Most reports suggest that House Speaker Kurt Zellers,
R-Maple Grove, was behind the decision. There’s ample debate and
chatter over whether Zellers has authority to terminate Thornton’s
employment, though he chairs the Legislative Coordinating
Commission, an umbrella organization for many state
commissions.

Republicans began making it clear last year that they view
LCCMR monies as an opportunity to fund some state agency budgets,
which they’ve been slashing. They also don’t like some of the
projects it funds, especially any that might involve two terribly
dirty words to the GOP: climate and change.

Yes, there have been a few goofy studies that have received
LCCMR funding over the years, and Outdoor News has criticized those
studies. Overall, however, LCCMR expenditures have been vetted well
and spent wisely. In my experience – and all my Capitol sources
concur – the staff is professional, competent, open, and
apolitical.

In other words, this is nothing more than a flagrant maneuver to
help manipulate your environmental lottery expenditures for
political gain. Beside the obvious Scroogesque move of canning a
22-year state employee the week before Christmas, the timing reeks.
Sure looks like Zellers, et. al., were trying to sneak this one
under the radar while most folks are focused on the holidays or the
payroll tax cut debate in DC, not to mention all the other
tantalizing stories oozing out of the Capitol.

Minnesota Public Radio reports that the decision to end
Thornton’s employment came because “the group is going in a new
direction.” No one is suggesting she’s been let go because of her
performance.

Nancy Gibson, LCCMR citizen co-chair, knew nothing about the
decision to fire Thornton and said, “This is not open. This is not
transparent.”

“For them to say we’re going in a new direction without any
discussion is a great shock,” Gibson said.

No, it’s politics as usual, and like most of the shenanigans
that have emerged from the State Capitol the past several weeks, no
one is talking.

Accountability anyone?

Longtime friend of Outdoor News and LCCMR board member Jeff
Broberg told MinnPost.com: “This is coming out of the blue. She
(Thornton) has the support of the commission. We’ve worked hard to
stay nonpartisan; there’s a commitment to deal with issues in a
scientific way.”

Science?! How dare they! We don’t need no stinkin’ science!

On a lighter note…

Pheasants Forever will be hosting its annual PheasantFest in
late February in Kansas City, the first time the event has been
held in the “Paris of the Plains.” I’m debating heading down just
to sample some of the city’s world famous barbecue and steaks.

Pheasants Forever has held seven PheasantFests in the past,
starting with the group’s 20th anniversary event in 2003 in
Bloomington. Since then, PFest has been in Omaha (twice), Des
Moines (twice), St. Paul, Madison, Wis., and now KC.

Let’s see, PF’s 30th anniversary will be in 2013. Wonder if
PheasantFest will be returning to the Twin Cities in 13 or 14
months to commemorate that milestone…

If you haven’t attended PheasantFest, it’s a fine opportunity to
mingle with fellow upland bird enthusiasts and conservationists
during the dead of winter.

Dates for KC are Feb. 17-19, 2012, and for more information,
visit www.pheasantfest.org

Categories: Rob Drieslein

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