Democrats fire a Democrat and taxpayers are stuck with the bill

State senate Democrats fired their top staff person, yet you the taxpayer are on the hook for $203,000.

It may all sound like a tempest-in-a-teapot, and the $ amount may seem minuscule in a government that wastes $billions every year, but the incident illustrates some fundamental lessons about a broken system.

Bear with me as telling the whole story involves piecing together many different accounts of what happened. Yesterday, the state senate Rules Committee voted to offer a fired employee a $110,000 settlement. That employee was Carly Melin, age 38, who served as the senate Democrats’ chief-of-staff.

Yes, it’s true. In both the state senate and state house, each group of Democrat and Republican members has a dedicated “partisan” staff who are technically state government employees but report only to members of their own party.

According to Melin’s LinkedIn profile, she was hired by senate Democrats in November 2021, at a time when Republicans held the majority in the chamber. The senate leader who hired Melin did not run for re-election in 2022.

In November 2022, Democrats won a one-seat (34-33) majority, and elected a new majority leader, Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis). Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) is the local branding of the national Democratic Party.

Presumably, it was Sen. Dziedzic who fired Melin in December 2023. At the time, MN Reformer noted that, regarding intra-party unity within the senate Democratic caucus,

But that unity has fractured in recent weeks over sharp disagreements about the Israel-Hamas war that have spilled out into the public

In February 2024, Dziedzic stepped down from her leadership post after a return of cancer. (She remains a sitting Senator). Democrats elected a new majority leader, Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul).

This week’s $110,000 settlement was to forestall a lawsuit from Melin who claims she was fired due to the “political actions and beliefs” of her husband.

A statement attributed to Melin on Twitter (X) yesterday,

Who are these people? A bit of explaining.

According to state records, Melin married Joseph Radinovich, age 37, on July 4, 2021. It was his first marriage, and her second.

Melin herself served three terms in the state House of Representatives as a Democrat representing a northern Minnesota district from 2011 to 2016. She met her future husband, Radinovich, as he served in the House as a Democrat representing a nearby district in 2013-14.

After leaving the legislature, Melin worked for the state Attorney General (Democrat Keith Ellison) for a time before being hired by the senate Democrats.

After serving his one term in the state House, Radinovich ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House in 2018, as the Democratic nominee in the November election.

He then worked briefly for the state agency Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) in a civil service job, until forced out over accusations his hiring cut corners and was too partisan for the agency. “DFL cronyism” was the charge leveled at the time.

More recently, Radinovich served as campaign manager for Democratic Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s successful re-election campaign in 2021.

Somehow, these two — Melin and Radinovich — are deemed not Democratic enough for the state senate DFL members. What gives?

First, despite his impeccable Democratic credentials, Mayor Frey is considered too-moderate by many involved in city DFL politics.

More recently, Radinovich has been working with Don Samuels in his bid to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Samuels, also a Democrat, is a long-time member of both the city council and the school board. In 2022, he took on Omar in the Democratic party primary, losing a close contest 50-48 percent, by fewer than 2,500 votes. Samuels is aiming for a 2024 rematch with Omar.

And we are back to the Hamas issue. Again, the MN Reformer reports,

At the outset of the war in Gaza, Radinovich signed onto a letter to the editor denouncing the Twin Cities Democratic Socialists of America statement showing solidarity with Palestine and for failing to mention the Israeli victims of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

Local media report that the $110,000 settlement for a “human rights” complaint involving “marital discrimination” represents a little under six-months’ worth (!) of compensation for Melin in her former position. Oh, and did I forget the additional $93,000 in attorney’s fees taxpayers will fund? Needless to add, no Republicans voted in favor of the state settlement.

I get that Democrats and Republicans should be free to hire whoever best represents them as staff. But when intra-party ideological squabbles create taxpayer liabilities, then something has gone wrong.

As I’ve documented before, state senate Democrats are among the party’s most prolific campaign fundraisers, sweeping up almost $7 million for the 2022 election. Last year, the senate DFL caucus took in over $1,300,000 in campaign cash, and they aren’t on the ballot until 2026.

So, why should taxpayers pay?