Publish date:

Calls for investigation after former DFL staffer details sexual harassment, lack of action by leadership

Cynthia Callais provided her account to the Minnesota Reformer.

A former DFL staffer's account of workplace sexual harassment and inaction by party leadership has led to multiple calls for an investigation.

Cynthia Callais, speaking to Ricardo Lopez of the Minnesota Reformerdetailed the harassment she endured while working in the Senate and later as deputy field director for the Senate DFL campaign. She said that over a period of nine months, a man named Clay Schwartzwalter made repeated, unwanted sexual advances toward her.

Schwartzwalter is the half-brother of state Sen. Jason Isaacson (DFL-Shoreview), whom Callais worked for as a legislative assistant during a portion of the time she says the harassment occurred. He also served as campaign manager for Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, whose leadership position includes responsibilities related to sexual harassment claims. (Schwartzwalter denied the alleged behavior.)

Callais brought the issue to her employer and human resources. However, she says her complaints were never investigated, and while trying to pursue corrective action she was instead told at one point to look for another job, she tweeted, as "nothing could be done."

Callais, who now works for Education Minnesota, initially tweeted about the incidents on July 1. On Wednesday, following the publishing of the Reformer's story, she said:

"11 months ago, I turned to DFL leaders to protect me in my workplace. Instead, I was told to find another job. My story is not unique — we are susceptible to sexual harassment in nearly every aspect of our lives."

Sen. Melisa López Franzen (DFL-Edina) released a statement calling for an outside investigation into Callais' allegations. She also criticized Kent for failing to launch an "immediate investigation" when she learned of the harassment Callais endured.

"I cannot in good conscience sit back while being shut out of the conversation on harassment in the workplace in the name of archaic 'Senate policy,'" she wrote, later adding: "It's 2021, well past time for the legislature — for both parties — to step up with action and protection in our workplace: the State Capitol."

Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) followed suit a short time later.

Sign up: Subscribe to our BREAKING NEWS newsletters

Meanwhile, 29 Senate DFL staffers signed a letter (published here by one of the signatories, Greg Weiner) saying they "stand in solidarity" with Callais.

In 2017, Rep. Tony Cornish (a Republican from Vernon Center) and Sen. Dan Schoen (a DFLer from Cottage Grove) both resigned after accusations of sexual harassment.

At the time, former Rep. Erin Maye Quade — one of the people who was harassed — argued "systematic" and "widespread" changes were the only way to stop the "pervasive culture of misogyny or to end sexual harassment of women inside and outside the Capitol."

Next Up

police lights

Man surrenders after 12-hour standoff at Eagan home

There was a SWAT response early Sunday morning.

Greg Joseph

Vikings radio call thought kick in Arizona was good

From jubilation to devastation in a moment.


St. Paul police report 7 suspected overdoses in 24 hours

The department reported that two of the suspected overdoses were fatal.

Mike Zimmer

Vikings miss game-winning field goal, fall to 0-2

Greg Joseph's chip shot attempt as time expired spoiled a late comeback.

Jose Berrios

Berríos leads Blue Jays in first start against Twins

Berríos got the win on Sunday but could the Twins win the deal down the road?


Crash in southern Minnesota kills motorcyclist

The crash happened Saturday at Highway 42 and County Road 14 in Highland Township.

Oli Udoh

Vikings-Cardinals: 5 things you can count on happening

The Vikings need a win in the desert but will they get one on Sunday?

Kyler Murray

How can the Vikings stop Kyler Murray?

The Cardinals quarterback accounted for five touchdowns against the Titans.

Red's Pizza in Oshkosh, Wisconsin

'Landmark' Wisconsin pizza joint to close amid worker shortage

The restaurant has been a local favorite since 1957.


Screen Shot 2021-09-03 at 9.13.52 AM

DFL Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent stepping down, won't seek reelection

The announcement comes as Kent faces criticism over the party's handling of recent allegations of sexual harassment by a former staffer.

Accused lawmaker was warned about sex harassment, former House speaker says

A House colleague and a lobbyist have accused Cornish of sex harassment.

Rick Nolan faces calls to resign after sex harassment claims against ex-staffer

An activist group is calling on Nolan to step down from the gubernatorial race.

Senators Tom Bakk and Susan Kent.

After 7 years, Tom Bakk out as Senate DFL leader

His successor is Sen. Susan Kent of Woodbury.

Screen Shot 2021-08-19 at 9.48.43 AM

GOP House leaders call for investigation into sex harassment, assault claims

They say any leaders who failed in their legal or moral responsibilities should resign or be fired.

After accusations, lawmakers calling for sexual harassment task force at State Capitol

They're asking Gov. Dayton and other leaders to act in a bipartisan way.

Ex-staffer accuses Rick Nolan of lying over former aide's harassment

A woman accusing Nolan's former aide of sexual harassment has penned an open letter to the congressman.