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DFL Senator, GOP Rep. Face Harassment Allegations

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -– There are even more accusations of sexual harassment at the Minnesota State Capitol Thursday night after three women accused Sen. Dan Schoen of inappropriate behavior.

WCCO learned that two women came forward with accusations against Rep. Tony Cornish.

Rep. Erin Maye Quade says Cornish sent her inappropriate text messages about looking at her on the house floor. It went on to say it was her fault, and she "looked too damned good."

The Republican from Blue Earth County denies the allegations and says the messages are being taken out of context.

"If you look at the totality of the texts and after this incident happened, the alleged incident on the floor, you'll know immediately after we go right into [laughs] and talking and joking about people on the house floor. It was a total blindside to me that there was ever any offense involved," Cornish said.

Meantime, Schoen is denying allegations of unwelcomed advances and inappropriate text messages.

Many people have called for the resignation of the Democratic State Senator, including Gov. Mark Dayton.

Maye Quade first told MinnPost that Schoen sexually harassed her back in 2015 when she was running for office.

It included a series of unwelcomed text messages to the point where she said, "I avoided him like the plague." She later said in a statement of the sexual harassment, "As a candidate, I experienced it with Sen. Schoen, as a legislator, I've experienced it by multiple members of the majority and reported it."

Tony Cornish and Dan Schoen
Rep. Tony Cornish and Sen. Dan Schoen (credit: CBS)

"If you're a victim of sexual harassment, you should report it," said John Ella, an employment law specialist with Trepanier MacGillis Battina P.A. in Minneapolis.

Ella says it doesn't take much to trigger a sexual harassment investigation.

Back in May, House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman sent an email to House Speaker Kurt Daudt asking him to "take steps to stop sexual harassment that is occurring," citing a specific complainant. She also expressed concern that there not be any retaliation taken against the complainant.

The Minnesota House of Representatives Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment states that if a minority leader or speaker receives a complaint, it should be reported to the House Director of Human Resources or House Employment Law Counsel.

The Director of Human Resources was carbon copied on the email.

Daudt released a statement Thursday confirming that he was made aware of general concerns regarding the work environment in the House earlier this year, but he was "not made aware of specific complaints and names of those responsible despite repeated requests for information."

He released that statement to address comments he made on Minnesota Public Radio Wednesday in which he said, "We take sexual harassment very seriously and I have not had a specific complaint of sexual harassment since I have been speaker."

Responding to his comments on the radio, Rep. Maye Quade released this statement:

I'm disappointed in Speaker Daudt's false statements yesterday to Minnesota Public Radio. That he had no prior knowledge of misconduct.

I know he was specifically informed of the inappropriate behavior that was directed toward me by members of his caucus who hold committee gavels.

Though he had the opportunity back in May, I hope he follows DFL Leaderships lead with swift action.

Daudt then released this statement late Thursday night about the accusations against Cornish:

The allegations of sexual harassment against Rep. Tony Cornish are extremely troubling. I have shared the reports with the House Director of Human Resources as prescribed by our Policy against Discrimination and Harassment.

In addition, I spoke with Rep. Cornish and told him that his reported actions were inappropriate and unacceptable as a member of our caucus and the Legislature.

After consulting with the House Republican Executive Committee, I am suspending his chairmanship and have instructed the House's non-partisan HR department to begin their complaint process.

Ella says a dispute over whether a complaint warrants a report is not uncommon. He added that it's possible the state could be held liable in this case, however there are many qualifications that need to be filled such as proof of damages, which could mean lost wages from getting fired.


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