Sviggum says he won’t step down from board

Kevin Burbach

University of Minnesota Regent Steve Sviggum, who took a job as the spokesman for the Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus Monday, told MPR Wednesday that he would not step down from the Board of Regents if the regents decided that his new position was indeed a conflict of interest.

“No,” Sviggum said. “I don’t intend to.”

In response to Sviggum’s new job, Linda Cohen, chair of the board, released a statement Tuesday evening.

“Although the Board’s Code of Ethics does not anticipate this exact circumstance, it is the Board’s duty to evaluate whether Regent Sviggum’s new employment at the Legislature could present a conflict of interest with his obligations as a Regent,” Cohen said in the release.

Despite concerns over a potential conflict of interest, in an interview with me late Tuesday Sviggum remained adamant that the two positions would not negatively intersect.

“If you’re not a decision maker, if you’re not saying yes or no, how can there be a conflict of interest?”

In February the board plans to amend its constitution to clarify that regents cannot work as University employees while serving.

Sviggum stepped down from his teaching position at the University’s Humphrey School of Public affairs last year after a committee of regents determined the two roles created a conflict of interest.

“The board thought it was a conflict. I respect their decision,” he said Tuesday night in a phone interview. “I don’t think it was correct. I don’t think it was appropriate.”

The board has yet to say whether or not another committee will be created to investigate the situation further.