Should telecommuting state workers live in Minnesota?

There is no law in Minnesota that says an employee of the state can’t live half a continent away and work remotely, but Fox 9 says it’s been stymied in an attempt to find out how pervasive the practice is.

The station says its probe started when Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch, was told by a former Department of Natural Resources employe that DNR land use specialist Dan Petrik works from his home office in northern California.

Koran, who works remotely in his financial services job too, asked state workforce officials how widespread the practice, but he got only a list of job titles and a location, no names.

Fox 9 says it was able to get a list of 62 names and job titles — everything from pharmacist, to water quality monitor to information tech specialist, it says — but no locations. Thirteen state agencies gave only locations.

There’s one in Arizona, eight in California, four in Colorado, three in Florida plus numerous others.

They are all people who collect a paycheck from the state of Minnesota but live outside its borders.

“But their job is really being on the screen all the time, so they can do that same work at home, that they can do at work,” said [Commissioner of Minnesota’s Management and Budget Myron] Frans.

Frans said these agreements help the state retain and recruit the best people.

“We have a tough time in managing for performance and productivity when the employees are sitting with their managers,” said Koran.

Koran worries about accountability, and that some employees might take advantage of being so far away from the watchful eyes of their bosses.

When asked if there had been any abuses. Frans replied, “I’m not aware of any.”

Koran says if the jobs are in Minnesota, the employee should live here.