Skip to main content

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

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 5.46.37 PM

Video shows officers ended pursuit before fatal crash in Anoka

The crash occurred when the driver fled police during an attempted traffic stop in Coon Rapids.

Eli Hart

6-year-old Eli Hart identified as boy found dead in car trunk

The kindergartner's father was trying to get full custody of his son.


Boy found dead in trunk of car in Mound was kindergartner

"It is horrifying and difficult to process a tragedy of this magnitude, especially in our close-knit community," the superintendent wrote.

Minneapolis police

Man found yelling for help after being shot in Minneapolis

The shooting occurred on the 800 block of Elwood Avenue North at around 9:15 p.m.

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 9.56.21 AM

Minneapolis North principal says she was fired, district says otherwise

“MPS requires schools to follow protocols in times like that and I did not,” Friestleben said.

Kris Richard Severin

Inmate who escaped Minnesota prison is captured

The inmate escaped Wednesday morning.

Brave New Comedy Workshop in downtown Minneapolis.

Brave New Workshop cancels shows due to COVID-19 cases

The shows were scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre.

Austin Retterath

Body of missing U of M student found in Mississippi River

Austin Retterath was last seen alive in the morning hours of May 8.

"Love" mural seen in St. Paul.

Summer mural events to bring together community, shine light on MN artists

The 2022 Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival will take place this weekend in St. Paul's Creative Enterprise Zone, with ensuing events happening this summer.


Gallery: Remodeled lakeside home in Prior Lake on market for $2.8M

It offers privacy at the end of a dead-end road fronting onto Lower Prior Lake.

golden valley police department

Carjacking outside ice arena in Golden Valley under investigation

Golden Valley PD confirmed it received a report of a carjacking Monday evening.


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.

University of minnesota sign

University of Minnesota reaches settlement after professor sexually harassed student

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigated the incident.

Senators Tom Bakk and Susan Kent.

After 7 years, Tom Bakk out as Senate DFL leader

His successor is Sen. Susan Kent of Woodbury.

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.

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.

Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 11.46.15 AM

Ex-employees and customers accuse Urban Bean owner of harassment, bullying

Greg Martin is the subject of allegations by former employees and customers on social media.