Joe Radinovich resigned from the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation in a letter this week - an outcome of last week's revelation that the state agency fast-tracked the politician's hiring and seemed to preordain him above other candidates.
An investigative report by the Timberjay newspaper last week into crony hiring at the agency detailed how Radinovich's name had been included on a handwritten update of the IRRR organizational chart even prior to the job opening being posted.
"It's my intent to refocus the public's attention on the important mission of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation through my action today," Radinovich said in a statement Thursday.
Radinovich's last day at the agency will be Tuesday, said the resignation letter to IRRR Commissioner Mark Phillips. Radinovich shared the letter with his announcement.
"This is an appropriate step that will help restore the credibility of the IRRRB," said Rep. Sandy Layman, an outspoken critic of the hiring. "I care deeply about improving and maintaining the integrity and reputation of the IRRRB because it does critical work for the residents of the Iron Range."
Layman had worried aloud that the Radinovich hiring served a perception that IRRR leadership was a landing spot for Democratic-Farmer-Labor politicians who were caught in between elected positions.
"This incident was embarrassing for the organization," Layman said, "and I have many questions that still need to be answered about the process and the involvement of the governor's office."
Prior to Radinovich's hiring, Jason Metsa had been appointed deputy commissioner at the agency. Both Metsa and Radinovich checked boxes as former DFL state lawmakers who endured failed attempts to win the 8th Congressional District seat in 2018. Radinovich won the DFL primary which included Metsa and others last August, before losing to Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Hermantown, in November.
In his resignation letter, Radinovich complimented the staff, calling it the strength of the roughly 60 member agency located in Eveleth.
"I've appreciated the opportunity over the past several weeks to apply my dedication to and passion for good public policy to my work for you at Iron Range Resources," he wrote.
The Radinovich resignation came a day after Republican efforts at the state house to include IRRR hiring reform in a legislative amendment. The move was thwarted by a majority vote, mostly along party lines.
"Democrats were given a chance to send a strong, bipartisan message that special favors and cronyism have no place in Minnesota," said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. "Unfortunately, Democrats blocked our amendment and failed to address this problem that has undermined Minnesotans' confidence in the IRRRB and makes all of state government look bad."
Radinovich's job amounted to a key managerial position, reporting directly to Commissioner Phillips. Radinovich was set to earn $100,000 annually, according to data-requested documents shared with the News Tribune, and receive a state benefits package.
The bombshell report called into question the Gov. Tim Walz administration.
"We were not involved in this at all," a governor's spokesperson said.
The IRRR had hired Radinovich in March after the state's Department of Management and Budget approved an IRRR request to post the opening for a single day - a reduction from what had been scheduled as a seven-day procedure.
In the aftermath of the Timberjay report, the Walz administration said it would change policy to require postings for managerial positions in civil service to be posted for 21 days.