After 43 years in the state legislature, Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) says she’s never felt so “threatened and domineered” as the day Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) repeatedly screamed at her for being deceitful and conniving with a Parks Board lobbyist.
As Kahn would tell it, on May 16 she and lobbyist Brian Rice went to McNamara’s office to discuss a provision in the omnibus environment bill. McNamara was angry to begin with and quickly changed the subject to an accusation he’d heard through the legislator grapevine that the Minneapolis Park Board meant to snub business with his family’s landscaping nursery.
During the conversation McNamara got red in the face, rose to his feet, screamed at Kahn and Rice to get out of his office, and slammed the door after them, according to a complaint Kahn filed with the House ethics committee in early June. The yelling was so intense, Rep. John Persell (DFL-Bemidji) said he heard it through the closed door of his own office.
McNamara owns up to yelling, but denies ever yelling at Kahn. The whole time, he meant to direct his ire at Rice instead, he said in a statement.
The ethics committee sided with McNamara on Tuesday. After hearing testimony from both sides, two Republicans voted to absolve McNamara, one Democrat voted to discipline him, and another asked for more time to discuss the complaint.
“Yelling at a lobbyist, I don’t know if that requires disciplinary action,” says ethics chair Sondra Erickson. “I don’t believe [McNamara] yelled at Phyllis Kahn. He yelled at Brian Rice, kicked him out of his office.”
If Rice wanted to testify, he could have, Erickson says. She also takes issue with the fact that Percell, who co-signed Kahn’s ethics complaint, was not present for the entire yelling incident.
“That also raised a red flag for me as soon as I received the complaint. For as long as I’ve served here, the complaints that come to the ethics committee have been signed by two members who observed the action," Erickson says, adding that an easier complaint to investigate would have been some issue taking place on the House floor, or on Twitter where everyone could see.
"After asking Speaker Daudt three times to get an apology and not do an ethics committee, and even after the hearing, [Kahn] has not been apologized to," says DFL spokesman Mike Molzahn.
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