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The executive director of the Minnesota Board of Nursing resigned Thursday, pre-empting the board's emergency meeting to decide whether to remove her.

While Kimberly Miller faced unprecedented challenges as director because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fall 2022 nursing strike, critics had complained of confrontations with staff and unnecessary delays in processing licensure applications and disciplinary actions. The board, even by its own admission and data, had fallen weeks behind in processing licensing applications over the past couple of years.

Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Janine Kimball read Miller's resignation letter to the board, which then promptly ended its emergency meeting Thursday evening.

In her letter, Miller acknowledged the unusual circumstances during her tenure, which included the pandemic and the switch to a new electronic system for processing complaints. However, she disagreed with media reports and criticisms that she had fostered a toxic work environment.

"I have given my absolute best to this important position," said Miller, who took charge of the board in August 2022 after working in other positions at the state agency since 1998.

Her resignation averted a prolonged meeting at which a relatively novice board would have had to consider a change in leadership. Three members were appointed in March, and on Wednesday, an executive committee discussed plans to train the newcomers on the responsibilities and challenges of their volunteer positions.

At the meeting, veteran board member Sarah Simons alluded to a rift between the staff workers who process licensing applications and investigate disciplinary complaints, and the board that oversees their work and votes on suspensions or other sanctions for nurses.

"We do have some reparations to make, some improvements to make," she said.

The shortened meeting Thursday occurred without public testimony, but some people stayed with the online meeting after its adjournment to voice their frustration.

"She gets to resign scot-free?" said one upset man, who couldn't be identified.

The board's most recent biennial report showed that the time to resolve disciplinary complaints had increased to 250 days, and that last June there were 320 complaints that remained unresolved after more than one year.

Gov. Tim Walz had requested funding increases just to maintain the nursing board's current level of service, including $237,000 per year to add three staff members.

Some of the pressure on the board over the past two years related to the flood of temporary permit applications for nurses from other states, who were traveling to Minnesota to cover shifts left open because of the pandemic or nursing strike.

State officials expect that pressure to continue, because providers are reporting increased burnout of nurses and struggles in finding full-time replacements for them.

The sampling of disciplinary actions from February to April this year showed some of the increasing dilemmas for the board. Sanctions were issued against one nurse who was posting inappropriate photos while at work on social media and against another who obtained a cash bonus by getting her patient to invest and then lose money in cryptocurrency.