Financial disclosure forms filled out by Steve Sviggum shortly after he was elected to the U of M’s Board of Regents did not require the former speaker of the Minnesota House to disclose his income as a lecturer at the University of Minnesota.
The forms require “all sources of compensation for the previous twelve months” over $500 dollars a month. But the form also instructs “Do not include compensation from the University.”.
Sviggum said board secretary Ann Cieslak told him to refile the forms and include his compensation from the U.
“Because of the interest, the question, the possible conflict, it would be good to put that in there even though the form says not to,” Sviggum said.
Cieslak said she asked Sviggum to add his university income to the form because of concerns over a potential conflict of interest.
The form doesn’t ask for information about income from the university because it was created for the school’s employees. Cieslak says the form should be changed.
A special committee formed by the U of M’s Board of Regents is looking into whether Sviggum faces a conflict of interest by holding a teaching position and serving on the school’s board of regents.
Sviggum, a former Speaker of the Minnesota House, has taught at the U since 2007. He signed a contract in early February expanding his duties to include fundraising, hosting public forums and writing opinion articles. The half-time job, carrying the title Legislative Fellow, pays $80,000 a year.
A few weeks after signing on to his new job, Sviggum was appointed by lawmakers to serve on the Board of Regents.
In a financial disclosure dated Feb. 23, two days after he was elected to the board, Sviggum listed his sources of income as “sale of corn, soybeans, beef cattle” under compensation. No detailed figures are given.
Sviggum refiled his financial disclosure on March 8, less than two weeks later. That form includes his wife’s income, the $30,000 he receives by serving on the board of AgStar Financial Services, and the $80,000 he makes at the Humphrey School.
Sviggum has said he was open and transparent about his position at the U during the process of being selected as a regent. He’s also told regents he can serve without conflict on the board as well as teach at the U.
The concern by some regents is that as a U of M employee Sviggum has a financial interest in action the board takes. Under the regents’ code of ethics, Sviggum would likely need to recuse himself from board action on financial items, which comprises much of what the board does.
A special group formed by the Board of Regents is currently reviewing Sviggum’s case. The three member ad hoc committee will meet to discuss the matter Wednesday March 30 at 3 p.m.
At that point they’ll determine if there is a conflict of interest. If there is, the group will come up with ways to handle the conflict.
That could include asking Sviggum to give up either his teaching position or his spot on the board of regents. Or the committee could come up with a plan to manage any conflicts and allow Sviggum to serve in both roles.
The full Board of Regents will meet on Thursday, March 31 to vote on the ad hoc committee’s findings.