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Friday, July 13, 2007

Jury Splits on Olson Virdict


ELK RIVER -- State Rep. Mark Olson was acquitted of the more serious charge, but convicted on the lesser charge, Friday in his domestic assault trial.

The six-member jury found Olson not guilty of causing or intending to cause bodily harm. The jurors found him guilty, however, of causing or intending to cause fear of bodily harm. Both charges are misdemeanors.

Serving his eighth term, Olson was suspended from the Republican caucus after his arrest last fall. There have been no attempts to remove him from the Legislature, but House Republican leadership has suggested he resign if convicted.

Olson, asked about his political future, said he has no intention of resigning, "even if [fellow legislators] asked me to."

As for his wife, Heidi, who has filed for divorce, he said he wants to keep the marriage together.

Olson's wife released a statement through her family following the verdict: "I would like to say publicly that I forgive Mark for what he has done to my family and me. He does need to be held accountable for his actions, though.

"The false allegations that he has made against me is devastating to us, but we are choosing not to live in bitterness towards him. I hope that Mark gets the help he needs for his personal problems."

Michael Brodkorb has reiterates his call for Mark Olson to resign. This time he does so publicly on his blog.

Minnesota Democrats Exposed is a blog dedicated to a truthful discussion on the activities, statements, and tactics of Minnesota Democrats. But today, I ask my fellow Republicans to join me in calling on Representative Olson to resign.

I contacted Michael Brodkorb for further comment. Mark Olson has no intention of resigning. I asked Brodkorb if he also called for the legislature to expel him. He said:

He's a law maker who is now a convicted law breaker. He should be expelled from the legislature.

It's not a good day for Sherburne County Republicans when Mary Kiffmeyer - their best candidate to replace Olson - was found to be incorrectly billing the state for travel. In 17 cases this was when the public purpose of the trips was unclear, and in others, she claimed mileage from her home to an event, when she was supposed to claim the lesser of the distance between office to event or distance from home to event.

Kiffmeyer finally commented on the record (AP):

It's not clear when the hires or the promotions in question were made. The audit didn't specify that information or give the names of the employees.

Kiffmeyer said she acted upon advice from the office's human resources director, whom she held over from the administration that preceded hers.

"We relied upon it, we acted upon it not knowing it was wrong information," Kiffmeyer said. "If we had known we needed to do something differently, we would have done so."

A separate audit released earlier this year said the Employee Relations department should develop clearer standards for people doing payroll or personnel services within agencies.

In December, the Department of Employee Relations halted a handful of personnel moves by the outgoing secretary of state's administration designed to provide more job protection to certain workers.

"As your office is in a state of transition and it is only a few short weeks before a new administration takes over, making HR decisions that have the impact of a long-term employment commitment is not permissible," read a memo from the department to Kiffmeyer and a top aide.

The memo about the job classifications was not part of Friday's audit.

The audit also said Kiffmeyer was overpaid for mileage reimbursements, including some where the public purpose of the travel wasn't clear. The report doesn't say how much was improperly paid out.

Kiffmeyer said a staff member who filled out that form made calculation errors by counting miles driven from home to various events instead of from the secretary's St. Paul office. She said she will repay any overages and clarify the travel which auditors deemed unclear.

Typical Kiffmeyer - blaming the staff member. I'm curious what the form the state uses for travel reimbursement. Remember, the problem was that Mary Kiffmeyer over-claimed miles. How did the staff member get the 52 mile number for the one way trips to the airport and 47 miles to the state fair.

Will this hurt Kiffmeyer's chances to carry the Republican banner should Olson get expelled?