Out-of-Control State Agency to Pay Nearly $1 Million in Botched “Investigation”

A botched investigation has not only cost the Minnesota Department of Commerce its reputation for impartiality but also nearly $1 million in court-ordered legal expenses to be paid to the auto glass replacement company victimized by the state agency’s discredited tactics.

The $941,534 judgment comes as the latest development in a series of missteps at the regulatory agency that critics have characterized as an “unconstitutional attack on Minnesota consumers and businesses.”

A key member of a legislative oversight committee who’s called on Gov. Dayton to fire Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman repeated her concerns over the agency’s abuse of power and rogue regulators.

“On Commissioner Rothman’s watch, the Department of Commerce abused their power, bullied businesses and acted against the interest of Minnesota consumers,” Vice Chair of the Minnesota House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee, Rep. Kelly Fenton, (R-Woodbury) said in a statement. “Now, taxpayers are on the hook for nearly $1 million because unelected bureaucrats believed they were above the law.”

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson earlier this year found that investigators under Rothman pursued a baseless, yet relentless investigation of Safelite AutoGlass, violating the company’s First Amendment rights and harming Minnesota consumers.

Court documents show that not only was the investigation predicated on “financially-motivated complaints from competitors” but that Rothman’s agency shared confidential investigative information with those competitors in violation of procedure. Moreover, commerce department officials overtly pressured other companies to stop doing business with Safelite in Minnesota.

“Where is the accountability? While I am pleased the courts put a stop to the Department of Commerce’s egregious actions, it is frustrating that hardworking Minnesota taxpayers will bear the burden of the Department’s misconduct and unethical behavior,” Fenton added.