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Senate ousts Molnau from MnDOT post

ST. PAUL - Democrats in the Minnesota Senate today ousted Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau from her appointed job as the state's transportation chief. The Senate voted 44-22 against Molnau's confirmation, ending a rocky and at times acrimonious relationship...

ST. PAUL - Democrats in the Minnesota Senate today ousted Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau from her appointed job as the state's transportation chief.

The Senate voted 44-22 against Molnau's confirmation, ending a rocky and at times acrimonious relationship between Democratic lawmakers and the Minnesota Department of Transportation commissioner that deteriorated further after the Minneapolis bridge collapse last August.

Senate Transportation Chairman Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, argued Molnau has mismanaged the agency, citing troubling agency budgets, delayed road and bridge projects and high-profile personnel problems.

"Serving as the state's transportation commissioner these past five years has been one of the best experiences of my life," Molnau said in a statement released minutes after the early-afternoon Senate vote. "It has been my honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Minnesota alongside the dedicated professionals in the department. I am proud of the agency's accomplishments in increasing infrastructure investment, improving efficiency and advancing innovation.

"I look forward to continuing my service to this state in my role as lieutenant governor. I remain committed to representing this great state, its people and its accomplishments in what-ever way I can."

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Added Gov. Tim Pawlenty: "The DFL's decision to remove the lieutenant governor from her post at MnDOT is disappointing. It also shows they're more interested in partisanship than working together on the important issues facing our state."

Molnau supporters say much of the criticism of her leadership atop the large state agency is unfair and that the Legislature is to blame for failing to adequately fund her department.

In a Forum Communications interview last month, Molnau said she saw no reason to voluntarily step down from her MnDOT post.

"My plan is to continue to work for the citizens of the state," she said in January, acknowledging the Senate had the power to remove her.

Republican Pawlenty appointed Molnau to lead the MnDOT since they were first elected in 2003. The Senate confirmed Molnau's appointment, but she needed another confirmation following the 2006 election, in which she and Pawlenty won a second term.

Earlier this week, Pawlenty told reporters he expected the Senate would remove Molnau. The governor said he would name a replacement "as soon as possible."

Molnau, a former transportation leader in the Minnesota House, was the first Minnesota lieutenant governor also to serve as an agency commissioner. She will continue to serve as lieutenant governor.

Molnau was not the first Pawlenty-appointed commissioner removed from a cabinet post. The Senate voted out Pawlenty's first education commissioner, Cheri Yecke, in 2004.

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The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party-controlled Senate

All 44 Democratic senators in the chamber voted against Molnau; she was supported by the Senate's 22 Republicans.

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