GOP lawmaker faces ethics complaint for yelling at DFL colleague

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A Minnesota state lawmaker is accusing one of her House colleagues of screaming at her to the point where she felt threatened.

State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said in a news release Monday that she filed an ethics complaint against Republican Rep. Denny McNamara of Hastings over the May 16 incident (read the document here).

In the complaint, Kahn described how McNamara became upset during a meeting with her and Brian Rice, a lobbyist for the Minneapolis Park Board, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

The dispute stemmed from an allegation McNamara had brought to Kahn, in which he claimed a Park Board lobbyist threatened to reduce the amount of business it does with his family's nursery and landscaping firm, as political payback for a change he wanted to make to the Park Board's budgeting.

Kahn and Rice went to McNamara's office to discuss the issues, according to the complaint, and Kahn said McNamara quickly became irate.

According to the complaint:

"[McNamara] then became incredibly agitated and accused Representative Kahn and Mr. Rice of being deceitful and conniving. He became red in the face, rose to his feet, and began screaming for them to get out of his office. Representative McNamara continued to yell as he slammed his door on Representative Kahn and Mr. Rice as they exited."

According to the complaint, McNamara's voice was so loud that it was heard by others behind closed doors in offices across the hall.

“In my entire time in the legislature I’ve never felt as threatened and domineered as I did on that afternoon,” Kahn said.

Her complaint states that McNamara's conduct violated the rules of the House, which require members to "treat everyone with respect, fairness and courtesy."

McNamara released a statement late Monday afternoon apologizing for the outburst, according to MPR News. It reads in part:

"During the legislative session, a DFL lawmaker informed me that a lobbyist for the Minneapolis Park Board had allegedly stated that if a decades-old earmark for the North Minneapolis Regional Park was to be repealed from existing law, there might be retaliation to my son’s landscaping and nursery business. I was appalled by such underhanded threats and intimidation.

Subsequently, I met with Brian Rice, a lobbyist for the Minneapolis Park Board, and Representatives Phyllis Kahn and Dennis Smith. In the heat of the moment, I reacted in a way that I now regret. To Rep. Kahn, with whom I’ve always had a great working relationship, I would like to apologize, as my words were not directed at her but to Mr. Rice, who I thought had made the threat.

The point I was attempting to make was that votes cast by members of the legislature, whether Republican or Democrat, should never be held against their family members. As I made very clear, my integrity is not for sale.

After this meeting, the DFL lawmaker who first brought this matter to my attention conveyed to me that the threat to my son’s business came from Maryanne Campo, another lobbyist for the Minneapolis Park Board."

Kahn's complaint is now in the hands of House Speaker Kurt Daudt, who has seven days to refer it to the House Ethics Committee for action, according to the news release.

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