ST. PAUL (WCCO) – The House ethics committee delayed action on an a rare ethics complaint filed against Rep. John Thompson so the DFL lawmaker can have a lawyer present.

On Friday morning, there was a hearing on a complaint filed by Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, citing an instance during a House floor debate in June in which Thompson called him a “racist.”

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“John Thompson’s comments were destructive to the integrity of this body,” Lucero said during the meeting.

But the chair of the committee, Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, granted Thompson’s request to push the meeting to another time when he could have legal representation present. The hearing will likely resume next week.

Lucero charges Thompson’s rhetoric brought “dishonor and disrepute” to the House chamber and “impugned” his character.

This ethics complaint, filed on June 29, precedes domestic violence reports emerged last week with allegations dating back to 2003, which have since mired the first-term lawmaker in controversy. The DFL lawmaker was not convicted of any assault charges in those cases and denies wrongdoing.

“Such direct attempts by one member to bully and intimidate another on the House floor cannot be tolerated; such undermining of the rules of legislative process must not stand,” the complaint reads.

Lucero Friday called Thompson’s comments “destructive” to the body. Thompson did not comment during the meeting other than his request for a delay.

Ethics complaints are infrequent occurrences in the legislature. The state Constitution empowers each chamber punish its members for “disorderly behavior” and can even expel someone from the body if two-thirds of members agree.

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“Ethics complaints are extremely rare,” Davnie, the chair, said when refreshing members of the rules of proceedings. “The ethics committee is unique among all the committees in the Minnesota House. It’s an inward- facing committee, a venue where by legislators hold each other accountable.”

The committee, upon the review of the complaint, could recommend a vote to remove Thompson from the House, though that would be unprecedented. The Minnesota Reference Library said it found no record of anyone ever being expelled from the House following an ethics complaint in at least the past four decades, when they started keeping a record of complaints and subsequent action.

The last time there was such a complaint in the House was six years ago. Since 1986, it’s happened 11 times, according to researchers.

More complaints could be coming against Thompson, House Republicans have said. They called on House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, to take disciplinary action, but in response she said she wouldn’t take any action until the “conclusion of court proceedings.”

Separately, Thompson on Wednesday was convicted of misdemeanor obstruction following an incident at North Memorial Hospital in 2019.

Thompson has previously resisted calls to resign. On Wednesday in Minneapolis, he told reporters the verdict is a “bump in the road” for him and vowed to continue to “fight for people who look just like me.” Thompson has been a leading voice for police and criminal justice accountability measures in the legislature.

“I ask for just a little respect for me and my family. Just let us have a few days and we’ll make a decision and get back to you guys on that,” Thompson said.

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The allegations of domestic violence surfaced after Thompson publicly accused a St. Paul police sergeant of racially profiling him during a July 4 traffic stop. The department said Thompson has since apologized. 

Caroline Cummings