Iron Range agency worker gets retirement money, then returns

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EVELETH, MN– Questions Wednesday night surrounding another hiring decision by the Iron Range Resources Rehabilitation Board.

The Star Tribune reported the state agency brought back a former deputy commissioner after he took a $166,000 retirement buyout.

“There’s some bi-partisan frustration to this,” said Sen. Justin Eichorn.

“I’m not sure what the uproar is here because it was all done over a year ago,” said Sen. David Tomassoni.

The two Minnesota Senators are referring to a Star Tribune report that said 30-year IRRRB veteran Brian Hiti along with 17 other employees of the agency volunteered to take a retirement buyout in 2018.

“I am told that this is something that does happen both in state government and both at private businesses,” said Eichorn.

But a month later, Hiti was hired back for his expertise on mining issues.

Now, in his current position, he’s making 41 dollars an hour working part-time.

“You’d think an agency like the IRRRB would have a lot of mining knowledge to be able to build on. Or, they would have been planning to have somebody in place as soon as this individual was gone,” said Eichorn.

The report said Hiti’s retirement was part of an early separation initiative program approved by the Legislature.

But there’s some conflicting opinions between board members.

Republican Senator Justin Eichorn said he and some other board members remember voting on Hiti retiring and coming back to train his replacement for 6 months.

While DFL Senator David Tomassoni said all board members voted to have Hiti come back after the buy out because it was in the budget.

“It certainly was transparent and it certainly was done in the public,” said Tomassoni.

This all comes on the heels of the agency’s controversial hire of former Democratic congressional candidate Joe Radinovich, who later resigned.

But unlike the Radinovich situation, Commissioner Mark Phillips told the Star Tribune that the Minnesota Management and Budget agency signed off on the idea.

Phillips said in the future, he will lean on the expertise of retired employees if needed, but from now on he will check with the agency’s board first.

State Senator Tom Bakk also commented on the situation, saying state agencies have done similar moves in the past.

As of Wednesday, Hiti still holds his part-time position.

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A month after collecting $166,000 in early retirement benefits from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, a veteran staffer is back at work there.

Former Deputy Commissioner Brian Hiti volunteered for retirement as part of a restructuring at the development agency. But the Star Tribune reports his retirement didn’t last long. He was back on the payroll a month later at $41 an hour. The agency says the contract was necessary to fill key duties and ensure a smooth handoff of his responsibilities as a mining adviser.

The newspaper says the contract has brought fresh scrutiny to an agency long criticized for political cronyism.

Gov. Tim Walz reprimanded its commissioner in April after former state Rep. Joe Radinovich got a well-paying post without going through the normal hiring process.

We’ll hear from Minnesota State Senator Justin Eichorn tonight on the KBJR 6 News at 6.

Associated Press

Associated Press

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