Mark Dayton finds himself on the run again, six years to the day after he skedaddled out of Washington DC because of a security briefing just before the 2004 elections. This time, though, Dayton walked away from reporters looking to get more information on a secret settlement of a wrongful-termination lawsuit involving a member of his Senate staff, who developed a heart condition and found himself fired over it. Dayton refused to answer whether taxpayers had been put on the hook for the payment, a question eventually answered in the affirmative later , as WCCO reports (via Shot in the Dark):
Mark Dayton, the Democratic nominee for governor, said Monday he will reimburse taxpayers for a settlement reached with a staffer he fired midway through his term as a U.S. senator.
The confidential settlement of the former staffer’s lawsuit was reached in early 2009, two years after Dayton left the Senate and about a month after he filed papers to begin his run for governor. Republican leaders raised the issue Monday, questioning whether public funds were used and if the man’s claims had merit.
Dayton accused the GOP of revisiting an old case “in desperation.” Even so, he issued a statement indicating he would “reimburse the U.S. treasury for the full amount of the settlement to relieve taxpayers of any such burden.” Dayton refused to take questions about the matter in person, but his spokeswoman said the original settlement called for him to pay the government back an unspecified amount.
The settlement was reached at least a year ago, but only now do we find out that it put taxpayers on the hook for Dayton’s decision? Note also that Dayton apparently was satisfied to have everyone else pay for his alleged bad management practices. The former Senator didn’t commit to reimbursement for a full year, and probably wouldn’t have done so at all if not for the exposure of the settlement.
The secret deal to shut down the lawsuit raises other questions as well. Did Dayton really fire the staffer because of his poor health? What, exactly, were the terms for which Dayton left taxpayers responsible? Did the settlement require the plaintiff to keep silent about Dayton’s activities as Senator, especially the bizarre episode in which Dayton shut down his office six years ago today and warned Minnesotans not to travel to DC? If Dayton wants Minnesotans to trust him in the governor’s office, he should answer these questions and level with us about this settlement and its terms.
The state’s Republican Party commemorates the 6th anniversary of the event that caused us to dub Dayton Brave Sir Mark:
There are two ways to look at this episode. One, Dayton sincerely believed that he had to run away from DC, in which case it spotlights his irresponsibility and lack of toughness. The other, which I suspect is closer to the truth, is that Dayton did this to grandstand three weeks before the presidential election in an attempt to damage George W. Bush’s re-election bid by making it look as though security was collapsing at the capital. I’m not sure which is worse, but in both cases, Dayton proved himself unworthy of public trust. The secret settlement and the belated offer to reimburse taxpayers for it is just the most recent proof that Dayton needs to be sent packing by Minnesota voters.
Tom Emmer is his opponent, and be sure to lend your support if this secret settlement offends you.