MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman says she will refer any ethics complaints regarding embattled DFL Rep. John Thompson to the Ethics Committee after Republicans said earlier this week they are prepared to file them if Democrats don’t take action.
In a Wednesday letter to House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, Hortman said that she is prepared to fulfill her role during such “complicated matters,” opening the door to a possible vote that could expel the freshman lawmaker. Hortman also reiterated her call for Thompson to resign immediately.READ MORE: 'Prepared To Move Forward': House GOP Prepares To File Ethics Charges Against Rep. John Thompson
In response, Daudt said he was “disappointed in Speaker Hortman’s inaction.”
“The demands for Rep. Thompson’s resignation from Speaker Hortman and the DFL majority ring hollow when they refuse to take any steps to hold him accountable,” he said in a statement. “We are reviewing Speaker Hortman’s letter and will be preparing a response.”
In recent days, Republican and Democratic leaders, including Gov. Tim Walz, have called for Johnson to step down after reports of domestic assault allegations emerged over the weekend. Thompson denies the allegations, saying through his attorney that he questions the authenticity of the police reports.
The lawmaker, who represents St. Paul’s east side, has never been convicted of domestic abuse.
On Monday, Daudt, R-Crown, penned a letter to Hortman, asking her to use her authority to hold Thompson accountable. If not, he said House Republicans were prepared to file complaints through the Ethics Committee.READ MORE: Law Professor Says Republicans Can Make Case Rep. John Thompson 'Brought Disrepute' To House
The Ethics Committee is made up of two Democrats and two Republicans. They will investigate the complaints and perhaps speak to witnesses. If the committee decides the complaints are justified, they will make a recommendation to the House.
For Thompson to be expelled, two-thirds of House members would have to vote to expel him. Thompson need not have broken any laws to be expelled, as the bar for expulsion is “an abuse of the public trust” or bringing “discredit to the institution of the legislature.”
On WCCO Sunday Morning, law professor David Schultz said that allegations of domestic assault, among other issues that have recently come to light, could be enough for lawmakers to reach the conclusion that he brought disrepute to the House.
According to the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, there has not been an instance where a sitting legislator was removed from office by a two-thirds vote. While similar votes were attempted over the last few decades, all failed.
Before being elected to office last year, Thompson was an activist who came to prominence following the 2016 death of his friend, Philando Castile, who was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. Thompson is among the Democratic lawmakers who’ve recently called for a number of police reforms, including that officers stop pulling people over for low-level traffic offences.
Thompson came under scrutiny earlier this month when he was pulled over in St. Paul for a low-level traffic offence. According to police, the lawmaker presented the officer who stopped him with a Wisconsin driver’s license, prompting questions over whether Thompson lives in his district.MORE NEWS: Rep. John Thompson's Lawyer Says He 'Challenges The Authenticity' Of Domestic Violence Police Reports
Thompson also accused the officer of racially profiling him, prompting St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell to demand an apology, as he said that the stop, when reviewed on body-worn camera footage, was “by the books.”
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