The House Ethics Committee held an initial hearing Friday on a complaint brought against Rep. John Thompson (DFL-St. Paul) for comments allegedly made during a June 19 debate on the House Floor.
Members took no action, however, after Thompson requested additional time to find legal representation. The 30-minute meeting featured only a presentation by Rep. Eric Lucero (R-Dayton), who brought the complaint, saying Thompson called him a racist.
“This ethics complaint is about protecting and preserving the integrity of this great institution we have the privilege of serving in,” Lucero said. “This is about the reputation of the Minnesota House of Representatives. John Thompson is a disgrace to this institution.”
The hearing would have allowed Lucero 30 minutes to make his case, followed by another 30 minutes for questions; then given Thompson 30 minutes to respond, followed by 30 minutes of questions for him.
But the meeting adjourned after Lucero’s presentation, and Thompson’s response will likely come next week when the committee is again expected to meet.
Thompson made only brief remarks Friday, saying “these are waters I’ve never been in before,” then asking for a continuance of the meeting.
The four-member committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls), also includes Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville), Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) and Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska). Two other members are designated as alternates – Rep. Andrew Carlson (DFL-Bloomington) and Rep. Debra Kiel (R-Crookston).
The committee’s rules say it shall meet to determine whether there is probable cause to support a complaint and, if a majority determines there is, another hearing would then be held to weigh whether disciplinary action is warranted.
“If a majority of the whole Committee finds clear and convincing evidence in support of disciplinary action, the Committee shall, with or without comment, make a recommendation to the House for final disposition,” the rules read.
Disciplinary measures could include censure, reprimand or expulsion.
While other allegations against Thompson have come to light in recent weeks, Davnie said the focus of ethics committee is on the complaint it received regarding the June 19 incident, and anything else is outside its jurisdiction and would not be entertained.
Signed by Lucero and five other House Republicans, the ethics complaint cites an exchange between Thompson and Lucero saying Thompson interrupted Lucero on the House Floor several times and twice said, “I know you’re a racist.”
“Rep. Thompson’s actions directed at a sitting Member on the floor of the House of Representatives bring absolute dishonor and disrepute to this body,” the members wrote. “Rep. Thompson’s comments were destructive to the integrity of the body and its adopted code of conduct. They further, and most importantly, served to impugn Rep. Lucero’s character. 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.”