Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bob Olson Challenger Elwyn Tinklenberg Prominent Player in Strib Series

Dump Bachmann covered a story about Tinklenberg standing up for the safety zone around the Minneapolis St Paul International Airport.

From the Stib story:
But Tinklenberg's tenure ended when Pawlenty was inaugurated in January 2003.
Molnau replaced him.

Actually, the fact checkers at the Strib missed the fact that Tinklenberg actually resigned his position in October 2002.

Amidst the turmoil at MnDOT, it leaves me wondering if his resignation had anything to do with the problems with non-competitive bid contracts, exorbitant spending, and other problems that plagued the powerful state agency.

As you know by now, the Startribune had a 3 day series that featured 5 stories on the problems at MnDOT. Elwyn Tinklenberg is a prominent player in each of these stories.

Previous Blueman MnDOT stories are up now.

The final story in MnDOT saga appeared on Janary 21, 2003 and was titled, "INSIDE MnDOT; Motivation can be costly at MnDOT; Spending on conferences, travel and entertainment adds up." The story describes questionable spending practices at MnDOT

Recall Tinklenberg's no bid contracts at MnDOT. And he thinks he can hold Congresswoman Bachmann accountable?

Last year (note the article is from 2003), for instance, the 1,200 or so who attended the conference at the Radisson South Hotel were treated to an hourlong speech titled "The Rise, Fall and Rise of Harley-Davidson." The speaker, a marketing consultant, was paid $10,750.

A speech the next day was titled "Build a Bridge . . ." But it had nothing to do with concrete and steel. Rather, taxpayers spent $14,045 for engineers to spend an hour with a motivational speaker who writes about communication between the sexes.

While communication between the sexes is important in workplaces, it would appear to at least me that the spending was a bit exorbitant. $14,000 an hour? Really?

MnDOT has increased its spending on the event by about 61 percent, from $136,173 in 1999 to $219,300 last year, according to records obtained by the Star Tribune under the Minnesota Data Practices Act.During the past four conventions, MnDOT spent a total of $664,231 more than it recovered from vendors' fees and other income, records show.

Keynote speaker contracts for the four years totaled $114,430. Some examples from the 2001 conference:
- $11,650 for a former ski champion's motivational speech.
- $12,950 for a team-building consultant who talked about ways managers can use fun to revitalize workers.
- $5,000 for a speech on "Intelligent Risk Taking."
MnDOT has canceled its 2003 conference, citing budget constraints.

They lost $664,231 on these conferences? Providing a "free ride" for your favorite consultants and other vendors is problematic. $5,000 for someone to tell dry jokes?

And then the Alaska trek...
In addition to its own conferences, MnDOT participates in the annual conference of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).The 2002 conference was held in Alaska in October. The agency initially sought permission from the Department of Employee Relations to send 25 people, noting that Minnesota would be host of the conference this year.

Bill Eisele, a division manager in the Employee Relations Department, cautioned MnDOT about sending so many. "I realize the necessity of your [conference] committee chairs going since you will be hosting the conference next year. However, have you considered the negative press if this ever got out?" he wrote in a July e-mail to Bruce Biser, assistant director of management operations.

Eisele said MnDOT's travel request was the largest that he had encountered. MnDOT officials eventually persuaded the Employee Relations Department to authorize travel for as many as three dozen employees, he said.MnDOT sent 34 people at a cost of about $100,000, records show.

A then recently elected Governor Pawlenty called out MnDOT on these spending practices. He chided MnDOT leadership for the size of the Alaska delegation as well as their own conference. We now know that years later, MnDOT still has significant problems. It will be interesting to find out if MnDOT has fixed it's non-competitive bid contract situation.

MnDOT hired comedians to come to their meetings!

For instance, MnDOT paid $200 to Jerome Mayne for a 20-minute comedy routine during an employee meeting in December 2001.

"It was so dry. I mean, light rail, budget and all this," Mayne said about the meeting. "And then here's Jerome coming in, in the middle of the morning, trying to make 'em laugh. It was one of the hardest gigs I've ever done."

Although his contract says he was hired as a motivational speaker, Mayne said his appearance was strictly a stand-up gig. "I think they did that for billing," he said.

The $200 is not the big issue here. Billing a comedian as a motivational speaker and the comedian coming back and saying that MnDOT did it "for the billing" raises numerous questions for me.

Spending $2900 in employee time and expenses for a 9 1/2 minute videotape called "Tinklenberg Zone" is not that big of an issue either, when viewed as a single case of wasteful spending. However, when viewed as a whole, its clear that MnDOT under Elwyn Tinklenberg wasted a lot of taxpayer dollars.

The series of Startribune stories from January 2003 is damaging. Especially for someone running on holding Congresswoman Bachmann accountable. It's also damaging because it paints Tinklenberg as a prominent member of the "good ole boys club" of Minnesota politics. It will not play well in the 6th.

Bob Olson is not a member of the "good ole boys club". He's the only candidate running in the 6th that has actually helped our youth go to college and assisted people in buying homes.

He actually knows something about Sustainable and Renewable energy sources.

He will be able to go toe to toe with Congresswoman Bachmann on taxation issues, as he has served as a tax attorney for about 30 years.

Most importantly though, you know where Bob stands on the issues. He does not constantly tweak his position (DFL endorsement, war in Iraq, choice, gay marriage issues) to obtain one more vote. He's honest and genuine and not a flip flopper!

Soon, I will post the entire MnDOT series. I encourage each of you to spend some time and read the MnDOT series, it's the other Startribune story/stories that Elwyn Tinklenberg is a "prominent player" in, and a series some will not want you to read.

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