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Minnesota Legislature

Cornish to step down amid sexual harassment allegations

Rep. Tony Cornish pictured on the House Floor in May. House Photography file photo

Amid allegations of sexual harassment, Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) announced late Tuesday he will be leaving his House seat by Dec. 1.

Cornish had been accused of sexual harassment by a lobbyist. Rep. Erin Maye Quade (DFL-Apple Valley) also accused him of sending unwanted and inappropriate texts.

 “As a proud former peace officer and longtime champion for public safety, I am forced to face the reality that I have made some at the Capitol feel uncomfortable, and disrespected. To those individuals and specifically the unnamed lobbyist, I sincerely apologize for my unwelcome behavior,” he said in a statement.

“… After having conferred with family members, friends and advisors, it is with deep regret tonight that I am announcing my intention to resign from the Minnesota House of Representatives. I do so after reaching an agreement in principle with the unnamed lobbyist that has been mentioned.

“The agreement is basically that I offer the enclosed apology, and resign from my office, on or before December, 1st 2017 and that we both provide each other with a mutual release of any claims against each other now and in the future.”

A special election is expected to be called to replace Cornish.

The House has hired an outside investigation firm to look into allegations against Cornish, who was first elected in 2002.

In a statement, House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) and House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers) said they asked Cornish for his resignation.

“Over the last week, it has become increasingly clear his resignation is the most appropriate course of action for him, his constituents, and our institution. As House leaders, we will continue to take concrete steps to combat misconduct at the legislature and ensure a safe and respectful work environment for legislators, staff, lobbyists, and the public."

Daudt removed Cornish as chair of the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee Nov. 9

Late Tuesday via Twitter, Sarah Walker identified herself as “one of several individuals who shared their stories about being sexually harassed by Rep. Tony Cornish over the past several years.”

“I am hopeful that by going public I can help others make the tough decision to speak out regarding their own stories,” she wrote.

“No one should be forced to accept sexual harassment that too often occurs at and around the State Capitol. My hope is that the current conversations will lead to long-term institutional changes that will allow hard-working, dedicated, intelligent women at the State Capitol the freedom to do their work without being subjected to harassment.”

The attorney for Sen. Dan Schoen (DFL-St. Paul Park), who also is accused of sexual harassment, including the sharing of inappropriate pictures, said the lawmaker is to resign Wednesday.

"The resignation of two such harassers in the Minnesota State Legislature is not enough to dismantle a pervasive culture of misogyny or to end the sexual harassment of women inside and outside the Capitol,” Maye Quade said in a statement late Tuesday. “Unless systematic and widespread changes are enacted, these behaviors and subsequent attempts to cover up instances of harassment will continue.”





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