ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP/WCCO) — Minnesota’s House speaker has suspended the committee chairmanship of state Rep. Tony Cornish after two women accused him of sexual harassment.
Speaker Kurt Daudt issued a statement late Thursday in which he also asked the House’s nonpartisan human resources staff to look into the allegations against the Republican from Vernon Center, Minnesota. Cornish had been chairman of the House Public Safety Committee.
Daudt called the accusations against Cornish “extremely troubling.”
“I spoke with Rep. Cornish and told him that his reported actions were inappropriate and unacceptable as a member of our caucus and the Legislature,” Daudt said.
Cornish denied wrongdoing and said he intends to fight the accusations.
“If you look at the totality of the texts and after this incident happened, the alleged incident on the floor, you’ll know immediately after we go right into [laughs] and talking and joking about people on the house floor. It was a total blindside to me that there was ever any offense involved,” Cornish said.
The allegations against Cornish came as several of Minnesota’s top Democrats urged state Sen. Dan Schoen to resign after accusations that he sexually harassed women. The Democrat from St. Paul Park said the allegations are false and suggested he has no plans to quit.
Late Thursday, Alyssa Siems Roberson, a spokeswoman for Senate Democrats, said Schoen had hired an attorney.
Schoen has served in the Legislature since 2013 and also works as a police officer in the Minneapolis suburb of Cottage Grove.
Cornish is a retired police officer who has served in the Legislature since 2002.
The allegations against the two Minnesota lawmakers come amid a tide of sexual harassment and assault allegations against powerful figures in politics, media and entertainment, including movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
On Friday afternoon, two female state House lawmakers and a candidate released a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton and other top lawmakers asking them to form a Task Force on Sexual Harassment. The task force would look into improving procedures for reporting and investigating allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of lawmakers.
Apple Valley DFL Rep. Erin Maye Quade is among those who authored the letter and accused two lawmakers of sexual harassment .
The letter says there is currently no clear process for reporting and an “abysmal record of accountability.”
A spokesperson for Gov. Mark Dayton expects the governor will address the concerns in the letter on Monday.
The letter asks the state to put into effect changes before the legislative session begins in January.
You can read the full letter here.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)