Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s director of the Governor’s Office for the Upper Peninsula has resigned to work for a controversial mining company.
Matt Johnson–who held the position–has been the governor’s representative on a number of key decisions pertaining to a proposed sulfide mine in the Upper Peninsula. That mine would be operated by Rio Tinto (the parent company of Kennecott), whom now employs Johnson as a “Government Relations” official. Johnson was the governor’s contact on sulfide mining since 2003, working with the governor and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to formulate laws regulating sulfide mining and providing her with talking points on the mine.
Unfortunately, this kind of “revolving door” is common for government officials, with regulators frequently moving between government positions and private sector jobs–often with the very companies they were charged to review. Michigan has particularly weak laws on this issue. Other states often require a one year (or longer) period to elapse before officials can take positions with private sector companies.
This is not the first time that Granholm’s administration has been criticized for its close ties to Kennecott. Back in 2007, environmental groups called for the removal Hal Fitch, a DEQ official who was allegedly responsible for withholding key reports critical of the mine’s safety.