Questions About Hiring of Advisor at IRRR

Updated: June 12, 2019 09:45 PM

Brian Hiti has a long history with Iron Range Resources, including a role as deputy commissioner. However, he was part of the early separation group who left the agency in 2018. According to the Star Tribune, he was paid over $160,000 to retire early, and then hired back by the agency a month later.

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A contract renewal for Hiti was on a preliminary budget document from May, according to Rep. Julie Sandstede. But it wasn't listed as such. 

During Friday's board meeting in Eveleth, she brought it up again. "Are we continuing to have the individual on as part of the IRRRB, after having received retirement severance, and two additional years of being brought on?"

She told WDIO News on Wednesday this isn't about Hiti personally, or his work. It's about the process. "We need to be accountable with this budget. And I think it was being done covertly."

The contract expires on July 31. Commissioner Mark Phillips recognized that there was concern about this hire, although he said that the agency checked with the office of management and budget to see if the severance and the post-retirement contract overlapped.

He said, in the future, he would check with the advisory board before hiring back other retired employees.

State Senator Tom Bakk believes this concession might not be necessary, saying state agencies have done similar moves in the past.

RELATED: Radinovich is Resigning from Iron Range Resources

This comes just months after the questionable hiring of Joe Radinovich by the IRRR. Radinovich resigned from the position and Gov. Tim Walz sent a letter of reprimand to Phillips.

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