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Minutes

May 28, 2002

Members present:

Senator Bill Belanger Representative Steve Dehler
Senator Ann H. Rest Representative Ruth Johnson
Senator Claire Robling Representative Dan Larson
Senator Deanna Wiener Representative Peggy Leppik
Representative Dan McElroy
Representative Wes Skoglund

Members Excused:

Senator Dave Johnson Representative Mary Jo McGuire
Senator Sheila Kiscaden Representative Michelle Rifenberg
Senator Thomas Neuville
Senator Jim Vickerman

Representative McElroy indicated the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Special Review of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) contract for the Highway 55/62 Bypass and to review two best practices reviews. He recognized James Nobles, Legislative Auditor.

Mr. Nobles reviewed events leading up to the determination that a special review of the bypass contract should be conducted. He noted the review found that nothing illegal had happened concerning this contract, but that the report did contain mild criticism of MnDOT and the procedures used in establishing the contract.

Senator Rest joined the meeting and assumed the Chair.

Senator Rest recognized Claudia Gudvangen, Deputy Legislative Auditor for the Financial Audit Division. Ms. Gudvangen reviewed the special review scope, objectives and history concerning the contract. She indicated the report concludes there were no violations of state statutes, but there was noncompliance with some policies of the departments of Finance and Administration. Ms. Gudvangen reviewed recommendations contained in the report and answered questions from members. In response to a question from Representative Skoglund, she indicated the review did not look at personnel issues. Mr. Nobles noted that staff did interviewed Kent Allen, former Assistant Commissioner in the Department of Administration, but did not discuss personnel issues with him. Mr. Nobles noted that Mr. Allen served in an at-will position and did not assert his rights to protection under the whistle blower law. He also noted the review did not look at engineering decisions made or the process used to make them. He noted the Program Evaluation Division is currently conducting a broad study of state contracting practices.

Senator Rest recognized Kirsten Cecil, Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Administration. Ms. Cecil indicated her office supports the work and findings of the OLA and that it is reviewing the contracting process. She indicated the contract office is staffed by a director and two staff and that they process 400 to 600 waiver requests per month. Appeals are sent directly to the Governor's office. She noted the department is reviewing the entire contracting policy and procedures.

Senator Rest recognized Elwyn Tinklenberg, Commissioner of the Department of Transportation. Commissioner Tinklenberg indicated the department handles from 3,000 to 4,000 construction contracts per year and hoped that the process would not be an impediment to moving forward. In response to questions from members, he noted that it has always been up to the MnDOT commissioner to determine when an emergency contract is necessary. He also noted that the emergency contract would not have been necessary if there had been no lawsuit calling for a halt to construction.

Senator Rest recognized Jody Hauer, project manager for the best practices review of Local E-Government. Ms. Hauer reviewed the purpose of the study, which was to identify best practices used by local government in establishing and maintaining E-Government sites. She noted that practices ranged widely, from the simple to the very complex and that some collaboratives were set up, enabling smaller jurisdictions to make use of available technology.

Senator Rest recognized Jan Sandberg, who has worked on the best practices review of managing local government computer systems. Practices ranged widely depending on staffing and resources available. Ms. Sandberg reviewed the advantages and disadvantages of the various practices used and reviewed conclusions contained in the report. Ms. Sandberg noted that while security to prevent hackers from getting into the sites was a concern, the biggest problem to date had been viruses.

The meeting adjourned at 11:55 A.M.

_______________________________________
Senator Ann H. Rest, Chair

_______________________________________
Jean Barnhill, Recording Secretary

 

Office of the Legislative Auditor ♦ Room 140, 658 Cedar St., St. Paul, MN 55155