Ethics complaint over yelling lawmaker dismissed by House committee

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A Minnesota lawmaker's ethics complaint, in which she accused a fellow legislator of screaming at her in his office, was shut down by the House Ethics Committee Tuesday.

The Pioneer Press reports the four-person committee voted 2-1 (one person didn't vote) during a two-hour hearing to not pursue the complaint Rep. Phyllis Kahn had filed.

Kahn's complaint against Rep. Denny McNamara stemmed from a May 16 encounter, in which Kahn and a Minneapolis Park Board lobbyist – Brian Rice – went to the Hastings Republican's office.

The meeting ended with McNamara screaming at the two visitors, according to the complaint.

But there was a lot of baggage that went into the meeting.

McNamara had been told a lobbyist for the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (not Rice, however) suggested the department should no longer do business with a nursery now owned by McNamara's son. (McNamara used to be involved with the business, but has not been for years now.)

Why? Because McNamara sponsored legislation to halt some funding for North Mississippi Regional Park – funding Kahn, a Democrat from Minneapolis, had established years ago.

When Kahn and Rice entered his office that Saturday, the complaint says he "began the discussion in an angry manner and immediately shifted the topic" to the accusation that the park board threatened to interfere with the McNamara nursery business.

McNamara eventually began yelling, the complaint says, and slammed the door as Kahn and Rice exited. A fellow representative, who was in his office with the door closed, heard the commotion and came into the hallway, saying he thought he was coming out to break up a fight, according to the complaint.

Kahn says she has never felt so threatened and demeaned by a fellow lawmaker, and argues McNamara's behavior violated the "spirit and letter" of the House ethical rules.

During the hearing Tuesday, McNamara told the committee he felt his family was under attack, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

He admitted to yelling during the meeting, MPR News reports, but said it was directed at Rice – whom he believed was the lobbyist that threatened his son's business – not Kahn.

The Pioneer Press says McNamara could now file an ethics complaint against MaryAnn Campo, the lobbyist who is accused of mentioning the nursery business to a different lawmaker. But Campo told the paper she never said those things.

On the House committee, two Republicans voted not to go forward with the complaint, while one Democrat voted in favor of it. The fourth legislator, a Democrat, did not vote, reports note.

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