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Senate boots out Molnau

ST. PAUL -- Carol Molnau's ouster Thursday as state transportation commissioner was called both a "fresh start" after five years of troubled leadership and the "political execution" of an honorable public servant.

The Minnesota Senate rejected Molnau's confirmation as Minnesota Department of Transportation commissioner, forcing her from a position she has held since 2003. She will continue to serve as the elected lieutenant governor.

"Carol Molnau has done an awful job as commissioner, period," said Sen. Steve Murphy, the Red Wing Democrat who had led calls for Molnau to resign and warned the Senate would force her out if she did not step down.

Murphy, the top senator on transportation, said Molnau's departure allows for "a new beginning in the area of transportation for our state."

Molnau's confirmation drew a party-line vote, with 44 Democrats rejecting her and the Senate's 22 Republicans supporting her. Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, did no vote.

Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Molnau's removal was done in a "partisan manner." He said Molnau led the department during a period of record road project spending.

"I'm disappointed that they chose to do that," Pawlenty said of the Senate's action.

Molnau's removal was immediate, and Pawlenty appointed Bob McFarlin as acting commissioner of MnDOT. McFarlin, who was Molnau's assistant, has been a key department spokesman since the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed Aug. 1.

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

"I am proud of the agency's accomplishments in increasing infrastructure investment, improving efficiency and advancing innovation," Molnau said in a statement after the Senate vote.

Murphy said his Senate Transportation Committee will hold a confirmation hearing within two weeks of the governor's appointment.