ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Governor Mark Dayton and multiple state lawmakers are calling on Minnesota Sen. Dan Schoen to resign following reports that he sexually harassed women involved in state politics. MinnPost first reported the accusations, which ranged “persistent and unwanted invitations to meet” to "physically grabbing a woman from behind.”
Schoen, a Democrat representing St. Paul Park, said in a statement to MinnPost that he was aware of the allegations, but denied that he “ever made inappropriate contact with anyone.” Schoen is also a police officer in Cottage Grove, and the city released a statement Thursday confirming that he has been placed on leave until the allegations have been investigated.
Two women, state Rep. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, and former DFL candidate Lindsey Port agreed to be named in the report.
Port told MinnPost she met Schoen at a networking event for DFL candidates in August 2015, when she was running for a state House seat in the Burnsville area at the time. Port said he twice commented on her body and at one point grabbed her buttocks from behind.
According to Port, Schoen then said, “Yep, yep, that’s a good door-knocking ass.”
In a tweet Wednesday night, Port said she is standing with other women who are "bravely" sharing their own experience with harassment because "this is not who we are."
"This cannot be the future," Port tweeted. "And I refuse to be silent."
Today I'm talking about my own experience with harassment in politics. I'm standing with other women who are bravely sharing their stories, because this is not who we are. This cannot be the future. And I refuse to be silent. #mnleg https://t.co/B517SE27iu— Lindsey Port (@Lindsey_Port) November 9, 2017
Maye Quade has also accused Schoen of sexual harassment over a series of text messages he sent her in December 2015, when she was working for U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and spending time at the protest at Minneapolis’ 4th Precinct station.
Maye Quade claims Schoen sent her a series of text messages with unwanted advances, repeatedly asking her if she wanted to get a drink with him and suggesting she come over when his children were not home. She told MinnPost that after that she “avoided him like the plague.”
I’m sharing my story so we can stop having these stories. I’m proud to stand with these women to end pervasive sexual harassment https://t.co/Ts7hEbPR3F— Erin Maye Quade (@ErinMayeQuade) November 9, 2017
Both women reported the incidents to DFL Rep. Erin Murphy, who was the deputy leader minority leader of the Minnesota House at the time. Murphy reported the incident with Port to the executive director of the House DFL caucus, but Maye Quade opted not to seek further action.
Lawmakers call on Schoen to resign
Murphy, who is now running for governor, is one of the lawmakers calling for Schoen to resign from his position in the Senate.
In a statement released Wednesday, Murphy said she strongly condemns Schoen’s “deplorable conduct.”
“This abuse of power is harmful to women, to people and contributes to a sick culture that we must change,” Murphy said. “It has not place in our society and is certainly not representative of how a public official should behave.”
Current Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka have also joined the call for Schoen to resign.
In a statement to MinnPost, Bakk called the victim’s allegations against Schoen “sobering and disturbing.”
“Sen. Schoen’s actions, even with additional context, were inappropriate and do not meet the standards for behavior of a state legislator,” Bakk said in the statement. “I have discussed these allegations with my leadership team and we are united in our call for Sen. Dan Schoen to apologize, step aside, and seek care to address these actions.”
Gazelka threatened to conduct an ethics investigation if Schoen does not resign.
“While I’m not privy to all the details yet, from what I’ve read, this is clearly behavior that brings the Senate into disrepute,” Gazelka said in a statement. ”I join Sen Bakk in calling for Sen Schoen’s resignation. We have an ethics process in place that might need to be utilized if Sen. Schoen doesn't’t resign.”
Minnesota DFL Party chairman Ken Martin says there is no room in the party for sexual harassment.
"The DFL stands strongly with the women who bravely shared their difficult stories and all others who have been harassed by Senator Dan Schoen," Martin said in a statement.
Governor calls for resignation
“The reported acts of harassment from Senator Schoen are totally unacceptable and unbefitting of the office in which he serves," Gov. Dayton said in a statement. "I join Senator Bakk and Members of the Senate DFL Caucus, who have called for Senator Schoen’s immediate resignation. This behavior cannot be tolerated in Minnesota's workplaces or in our communities.”
“Reports that Senator Schoen has sexually harassed my friends and colleagues in the state legislature are terrible to read about. These women deserve better. All women deserve better," Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said in a statement. "The only way to put a stop to this kind of degrading, disrespectful and harmful behavior is to expose it. I’m grateful these women spoke out. Senator Schoen has no choice but to resign immediately. And to any other man, in the Legislature or any workplace, who sees himself in these stories and tries to rationalize this kind of behavior, must understand: treating anyone like this is unacceptable and must stop.”
According to MinnPost, Schoen has said he has no intention of resigning.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt statement
“Earlier this year, Minority Leader Hortman came to Majority Leader Peppin and me with general concerns about the work environment in the Minnesota House. However, I was not made aware of specific complaints and names of those responsible despite repeated requests for information in that meeting. In a recent radio interview where I brought up this discussion, I accurately shared that ‘we take sexual harassment in the Minnesota House very seriously and I have not had a specific complaint of sexual harassment since I have been speaker.’
“Leader Hortman’s recommended course of action included asking me to speak to my caucus about what is and what is not sexual harassment, which I did. I asked her to do the same and I assume she has done so. We also agreed to conduct a mandatory harassment and discrimination training at the beginning of the next session which has been planned. It was my understanding at the time this satisfactorily addressed Leader Hortman’s concerns which we took very seriously.
“The House of Representatives Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment clearly states that 'complaints can be brought to any House supervisor, the Speaker, Majority Leader, Minority Leader, or Director of Human Resources (HR)'. Furthermore, ‘any of the above person receiving a complaint must promptly report the complaint the Director of HR or House Employment Law Counsel.’
“If Leader Hortman received a specific complaint, I urge her to follow our policy and immediately report it to HR or our employment attorney. Had I received a specific complaint, I would have reported it as is required. I will continue to work with Leader Hortman to ensure the Minnesota House is a safe and respectful work environment for members and employees.”
City of Cottage Grove statement
"The City of Cottage Grove is aware of the allegations made against Senator Dan Schoen in his legislative role for the State of Minnesota. We take the allegations seriously, as we do all sexual harassment allegations. The City is not aware of any misconduct by Dan Schoen in his role as a police officer for the City of Cottage Grove.
"However, due to the allegations made against Senator Schoen, the City has elected to assign him to administrative duties until the allegations have been investigated by the State. At the completion of the State investigation the Cottage Grove Police Department will investigate these allegations, as they would any other officer off-duty conduct, to determine if any city policy violation has occurred, which is standard procedure for the department.
"An updated statement will be issued if new information becomes available."