Thompson agrees to settle unpaid traffic ticket, acknowledges violation

Rep. John Thompson speaks outside of court on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. (FOX 9)

State Rep. John Thompson has paid $100 to settle his unpaid ticket stemming from a July 4 traffic stop in downtown St. Paul.

Thompson, who faced having his driver's license suspended for failing to pay a $286 ticket for three months, accepted the settlement Wednesday during a legal hearing in Ramsey County. The terms required him to admit he was in violation of driving after suspension. He must avoid any driver's license violations for a year.

Thompson saw a FOX 9 reporter on the virtual legal hearing and said it must be a "slow news day."

"Sorry, I beat you to it. I paid it. So you can report that," he said. By mid-afternoon, Minnesota's online court records system showed Thompson had paid the $100.

The traffic stop led to weeks scrutiny of Thompson's residency because he presented the St. Paul officer with a Wisconsin driver's license that he renewed in November 2020, the same month he was elected in Minnesota. Then, in the process of covering the residency issues, FOX 9 uncovered domestic violence allegations in Thompson's past. 

House Democrats kicked Thompson out of their caucus in September. The lawmaker has denied wrongdoing and has repeatedly refused calls to resign.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman has said she would wait until Thompson resolved his legal troubles before deciding whether to take additional action. A spokesman for Hortman said the speaker did not have more to announce Wednesday.

Residency rules considered

A Minnesota Senate committee is weighing potential changes to tighten the rules on where lawmakers live when they run for office.

Legislative candidates must live in their districts for six months before election day, but election officials do not check to see if candidates live at the addresses they put on their registration forms. Usually, a filing officer will only verify that the address is within the legislative district, said David Maeda, elections director for the Secretary of State's office.

"If the address listed on the affidavit is actually in the district, the filing officer has no discretion. They have to accept the affidavit," Maeda told the Senate State Government committee this month.

It's not clear what address Thompson used. He initially wrote an address on St. Paul's east side, crossed it off, and ultimately used a separate form that allowed him to keep his address private. Fewer than 15 candidates used that form to file with the Secretary of State's office in 2020 and none used it to file with Ramsey County, elections officials there said.

A registered voter can ask for a review up to one day after the close of the filing period, but Maeda said he'd never seen it happen during his 25-year career in Minnesota elections.

Anyone can petition the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the address of a candidate for state or federal office. In 2016, the state Supreme Court ruled that then-state Rep. Bob Barrett didn't live in his Taylors Falls district and ruled him ineligible for re-election.