Senate panel dismisses Newman ethics complaint
by Paul Demko
Published: February 10,2011
Time posted: 10:05 am
Tags: Bill Ingebrigtsen, Kathy Sheran, Ken Kelash, Linda Scheid, Michelle Fischbach, Minnesota Nurses Association, Ron Latz, Sandy Pappas, Scott Dibble, Scott Newman
A bipartisan Senate panel dismissed an ethics complaint against Sen. Scott Newman stemming from an email sent out by his office stating that he would not meet with any individuals or groups that supported his opponent in the November election. Following an occasionally contentious five-hour hearing on Wednesday, the Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct voted 4-0 that the Hutchinson Republican’s behavior did not violate the body’s rules.
At issue was an email sent out by Newman’s legislative aide last month. “Unfortunately, Senator Newman will not see any organizations that donated to/supported his opponent Hal Kimball,” the email read. “After some careful checking, I discovered that the MNA had donated to Kimball’s campaign.”
Newman apologized for the email and indicated that it did not reflect his policy for meeting with constituents and advocacy groups. The first-term Republican also stated that he was not aware of the email’s content prior to it being sent. Newman has since met with members of the nurses association.
Three DFL Senators — Sandy Pappas (St. Paul), Ken Kelash (Minneapolis) and Scott Dibble (Minneapolis) — filed an ethics complaint over the matter. A fourth Democrat, Sen. Ron Latz (St. Louis Park), an attorney, was added to the complaint during the hearing.
Latz presented the case against Newman, including direct questioning of his GOP colleague. At one point, the DFLer stated that he found it “incredulous” that Newman’s legislative aid acted independently in sending out the incendiary email.
But the Republican didn’t back down from his previous statements. “I didn’t write it; I didn’t prepare it,” Newman said of the email. “We can dance on this all night and the answer’s going to be the same.”
Fritz Knaak, who acted as Newman’s attorney during the hearing, accused Democrats of exploiting the episode to score political points. The former state senator further argued that giving higher priority to meeting with political supporters is routine at the Capitol. “Who’s kidding who?” Knaak asked. “That’s the way it operates in a political institution.”
Dibble and others took issue with this assertion. “This is not the way it works in the Senate,” he said.
The senate ethics panel voted to dismiss the complaint in a closed-door session following the public hearing. The participants: DFL Sens. Linda Scheid (Brooklyn Park) and Kathy Sheran (Mankato), GOP Sens. Michelle Fischbach (Paynesville) and Bill Ingebrigtsen (Alexandria).
After the hearing, Newman expressed relief that the panel had dismissed the matter. “At this point, to be real honest, I need to get back to work,” he said.