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Ex-staffer accuses Rick Nolan of lying over aide's alleged sexual misconduct

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

One of the women accusing Rep. Rick Nolan's former legislative director of sexual harassment claims the congressman is not telling the full truth about how he dealt with it.

Nolan, who is Lori Swanson's running mate in the DFL race for governor, has been under pressure since a MinnPost piece on Friday featured accusations from three former staffers who said they'd been harassed by Jim Swiderski while working for Nolan.

The 8th district representative said he accepted his chief of staff Jodie Torkelson's recommendation to fire Swiderski in 2015 when they became aware of the accusations. 

Swiderski was later briefly retained as a contractor for Nolan's campaign in 2016, something Nolan said in hindsight shouldn't have happened.

But in an open letter shared by 8th Congressional District DFL chair Emily Nygren on Monday, the first woman to reach out to MinnPost accuses Nolan of being disingenuous about how he responded when the allegations against Swiderski came to light.

Under the pseudonym of "Amanda," she wrote: "You threw Jim a goodbye party and bought him a cake. You made us all sit in your office and listen to you praise the man you knew harassed and demeaned us.

"You allowed him to resign with honor, as you graciously thanked him for his loyalty and friendship over the past several decades."

MinnPost spoke to other staffers who said that Nolan allowed Swiderski to resign from his post rather than have him face disciplinary action.

Nolan continues to deny this on Monday, releasing a statement in which he said Torkelson "let the male staffer go" when they became aware of the harassment.

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The letter also criticizes the Swanson-Nolan campaign's initial reaction to the accusations, in which they suggested it was partly politically motivated because one of the accusers works for the rival Tim Walz-Peggy Flanagan campaign.

In her letter, "Amanda" wrote: "The fact that you’re blaming your political opponents because eight of your former staffers spoke the truth about your misconduct proves that you do not understand the severity of what you’ve done."

Nolan walked back on these comments on Monday, saying: "Though I am told that at least two of the women quoted anonymously in the story now work for my opponents or their allies, that doesn't change or diminish in any way the fact that the harassment by the male staffer was wrong and should not be tolerated in any work environment. 

"I apologize to these women that it did, and for any insensitive comments I may have made."

Swanson has pledged to stick by her running mate, saying: "Congressman Nolan has a long, effective, and distinguished track record representing Minnesota and has fought for gender equality throughout his entire career.

"As the first female attorney general in Minnesota history who is running to be our state's first female governor, the Swanson-Nolan Administration will work hard to promote opportunities and equality for women. Sexual harassment will have no place in the Swanson-Nolan Administration."

Here's the full letter.

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