Alleged U

Joe Carlson

A state Senate committee on ethics will convene this month to investigate an allegation that the former dean of the University agriculture college paid $12,500 to a state senator for directing money to the school.
The hearing was called after Sen. Dallas Sams, DFL-Staples, wrote a letter to ethics committee chairwoman Sen. Ember Reichgott Junge, DFL-New Hope, asking for an investigation to exonerate his name.
“I would like to take this opportunity to fully clear my name in the eyes of my colleagues and the public,” Sams wrote in the letter. The Senate Ethical Conduct Subcommittee will meet publicly on the matter at the Capitol building in St. Paul on Dec. 16.
The controversy became public in late November after a non-partisan legislative watchdog group, Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, made allegations condemning Sams and demanded he return the money.
The group alleges Mike Martin, former dean of the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, funneled $12,500 to Sams through a business contract after the legislator authored a state bill that earmarked $1 million for the college.
Neither Sams nor Martin could be reached for comment.
In October 1998, about six months after Sams’ bill was approved, Martin wrote a contract to pay Sams $12,500 for consulting services. But the contract was never executed, the watchdog group alleges, because of a fear of public outcry.
Then in February 1998, Martin contracted to buy $13,500 in CD-ROM training materials from a St. Paul business, Media Integrated Training Services.
But four months earlier, the business’ owner, Thomas Powell, contracted with Sams for consulting work on the CD-ROMs at a rate of $400 per day; Sams eventually received $12,500 from the company.
A review of the matter conducted by the University’s Office of the General Counsel in October found that Martin committed no legal wrongdoing. The report did, however, criticize the contract as not conforming to “good business practices.”
The report found that the CD-ROMs could have been bought “off the shelf” for $1,000. It also said Martin regretted the indirect contract with Sams, and if he could do it all again, he would have contracted directly with the senator.