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Minnesota official's coffee cup-licking antics come back to haunt him

Rep. Ron Erhardt (DFL-Edina) is finally sorry for his bad sense of humor.

Rep. Ron Erhardt (DFL-Edina) is finally sorry for his bad sense of humor. Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

For the better part of six months in 2014, Pat Maahs' morning coffee tasted funny. Yet the New Brighton hardware store worker chalked up her misgivings to dated caffeinated product.

Until one August day.

Maahs spotted co-worker John Lind standing beside her desk. A glazed look flooded over the man's face when he realized Maahs had seen him standing where he didn't belong. Lind boogied away.

Maahs returned to her work station, noticing a puddle of spooge on the desk. Then it hit her. It wasn't old coffee she'd been tasting. Lind had been defiling her morning java with semen.

Lind initially was slapped with two counts of criminal sexual conduct after confessing to the assault. But a judge dismissed the charges saying, "No current sex law covered this type of incident."

The judge suggested that Maahs lobby to have the law changed.

In 2015, Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center) introduced a bill making putting bodily fluids in someone's else's food sexual assault. The definition of fluids included not just semen, but saliva. It was the latter that set the stage for what happened next.

The initiative was being discussed on the House floor when Rep. Ron Erhardt (DFL-Edina) stepped to the mic with a coffee mug in hand. He began to lasciviously lick the cup's rim. The theatrics were geared toward highlighting the bill's supposed overreach of including saliva. Maahs, who was in the gallery at the time, didn't find it funny. To her and others it came across as Erhardt mocking her assault.

This wasn't an isolated case showcasing Erhardt's odd brand of comedy.

In May 2015, dressed in a lab coat with a stethoscope around his neck, Erhardt gave a bizarre speech about the avian flu epidemic impacting the state's turkey farms. He spoke about enjoying a recent turkey dinner "and had almost immediately after started showing signs of flu."

Some of his fellow legislators were not amused. They asked that he shut up.

Before that, there was the time he threatened to blow the "head off" a gun rights surveyor.

Now Maahs and some Edina residents hope to make Erhardt pay for his alleged sense of humor. They held a press conference last week to spotlight Erhardt's coffee cup display, arguing that he had "engaged in antics unbecoming an elected official."

Eighteen months ago, Maahs left two messages for Erhardt. She wanted an apology. The legislator finally responded this past weekend.

"I told him whether he realized it or not, using a coffee cup and licking it like he did when the subject at hand was a person, meaning me... was a badly-chosen display," says Maahs.

"After all this time, he said he understood. And I finally got an apology."

Erhardt issued a statement late Monday evening, which read in part: "I have spoken with Ms. Maahs and apologized for offending her. During the debate on the bill, I used an illustration from the TV show, Friends to highlight an important flaw in the bill. The illustration was offensive to Ms. Maahs, I made a mistake and I’m sorry for it."