The Potluck

4 former MN GOP executive directors call on party chair to resign

By: - August 18, 2021 1:01 pm

Former Minnesota Republican Party chair Jennifer Carnahan looks on during the national anthem during a rally for President Donald Trump at the Bemidji Regional Airport on September 18, 2020 in Bemidji, Minnesota. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Four former Republican Party of Minnesota executive directors are calling on party Chair Jennifer Carnahan to resign. 

The four executive directors are Christine Snell, Kevin Poindexter, Becky Alery and Andy Aplikowski.

“As the four most recent MN GOP executive directors under Carnahan, we have a unique perspective into the toxic environment, inappropriate behavior and manipulation that she has facilitated,” the joint statement said. “While we did not have knowledge of many of the saddening stories of sexual assault or harassment, unfortunately, we can corroborate and back up many of the other stories that have been shared to date.”

They added: “Carnahan ruled by grudges, retaliation and intimidation.”

In the days since the indictment of Carnahan’s friend and Republican political donor Anton Lazzaro on charges of sex trafficking, a number of young women have stepped forward to say Carnahan mishandled allegations of sexual harassment leveled against party staff. 

Former party officials have also described a toxic work environment; a former party political director told the Reformer she was outed as queer and subjected to verbal harassment

Calls for Carnahan’s ouster have grown, with GOP elected officials, including some in Minnesota House leadership, saying they have lost confidence in her stewardship of the state party. 

The four former executive directors said they are calling for an independent investigation into the party’s human resources department along with an external financial audit.

“There is still time to salvage the 2022 election cycle and prevent the atrocities we have heard form continuing to occur under her regime, but it will take swift decisive action,” the statement said. “It will be impossible for our Party to earn back the trust of delegates, donors, activists, staff and voters if Carnahan remains chair.”

Carnahan and other GOP officials have denounced Lazzaro — who has denied the allegations through his lawyer — and pledged to redirect to charity the more than $270,000 in contributions he has given to candidates, party units and PACs. 

Former and current party officials say Carnahan has used non-disclosure agreements to stifle criticism. The party executive board voted Sunday to end them. 

The former executive directors say now that they are no longer bound by those non-disclosure agreements, they are eager to share their stories.

The state party executive committee is set to meet Thursday night to hold a vote of confidence on Carnahan’s leadership. 

The state’s highest elected Republicans, U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer, Michelle Fischbach, Jim Hagedorn, and Pete Stauber, have not issued statements on the situation and did not respond to requests seeking comment Wednesday. 

The Reformer has reached out to Carnahan for comment.

Full statement from former MN GOP executive directors:

Ten years ago, Chair Tony Sutton resigned because under his leadership, the Republican Party of Minnesota was financially bankrupt. Today, the Party is morally bankrupt due to the leadership of Chair Jennifer Carnahan.

This week, thanks to the courageous efforts of a few of the MN GOP State Executive Committee members, the NDAs that have silenced the four of us and many others have been lifted. Since it appears that may change again in just over 24 hours, we felt it was important to take this opportunity – together – to make our voices heard before we are silenced again.

As the four most recent MN GOP Executive Directors under Carnahan, we have a unique perspective into the toxic environment, inappropriate behavior and manipulation that she has facilitated. While we did not have knowledge of many of the saddening stories of sexual assault or harassment, unfortunately, we can corroborate and back up many of the other stories that have been shared to date.

While Carnahan points to her re-election percentage as to why she should remain, we would argue that race may have had a different outcome if those of us under NDAs – some with non-disparagement clauses – were able to share our stories. And now, due to the blatant lies being pushed by Carnahan, HR Director Ron Huettl, other members of the Executive Committee, and members of the Personnel Committee we believe that it is our duty to do just that. To share our stories while we still can.

Carnahan ruled by grudges, retaliation, and intimidation. She delayed sharing lists from candidates for a variety of party offices so “her chosen person” could have a leg up. She blocked hires for the Victory program and the state party because she had a personal vendetta with the prospective employee or because they had filed a complaint against another employee. And she has thwarted former staffers from getting other jobs in our field or even tried to get them fired by complaining to their superiors.

Carnahan created an extremely toxic work environment, often yelling, demeaning and questioning loyalty. We would be reprimanded if we did not glowingly ‘pump up’ and stroke the ego of Carnahan in our rare public appearances. It has been all too common for her to cross professional boundaries by including staff in personal issues and drama. We have all accidentally received messages clearly meant for her friends containing private information of a personal nature that made us very uncomfortable.  And, while we all understand the political world includes long hours, the chair would cross work/life boundaries on a nearly daily basis with calls and texts at all hours – often to discuss nothing related to the workplace or Republican cause.

But who could we turn to? The HR Director Ron Huettl who just sent out a glowing review, calling Carnahan the most “staff-friendly, compassionate” Chair he has ever worked for? And who often shared staff complaints with Carnahan violating his HR trust where the information was used against them? Or the Personnel Committee handpicked by Carnahan and filled with her best friends who she likes to gossip with?

And, most disturbing of all, we now know by the multitude of young women coming forward that Carnahan used her power to cover up allegations of sexual harassment and abuse. These credible allegations are sickening and the fact that these women were silenced by Carnahan and her HR department is beyond shameful.

Make no mistake, Carnahan not only refuses to accept her own responsibility for the mountain of dirty laundry being aired in recent days, she thinks she is the victim. Thankfully, we only suffered severe emotional and physical torment from the long hours and wrath of Carnahan.

Our hearts go out to victims and survivors of Carnahan who have had no choice but to go public with their shocking stories in the hopes that people would stop protecting Carnahan. It is time to stop believing the lies and put an end to the toxic, retaliatory, and dramatic reign of Carnahan.

Carnahan is very much the person the supposed “coup” is making her out to be. She has successfully insulated herself with loyal staff and packed the State Executive Board and committees with people who will vote exactly how she wants them to protect her.  If Carnahan wasn’t willing to drag down Big Brothers Big Sisters with this chaos, why would she not afford Republicans in this state the same opportunity of a clean slate?

We cannot continue to allow Carnahan to denigrate this organization and tarnish the Republican brand – it is not the Carnahan brand – while continuing to drive well-intentioned, talented, and active republicans to the curb. We cannot allow Carnahan and Huettl to continue to ignore the dozens of stories of victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and a hostile work environment.

We each have our own stories to share, and plan to do so. But, today, we stand united in our resolve that the state and our party deserve better than Carnahan as Chair.

We are calling for the immediate resignation of Carnahan, an independent investigation into the HR department along with an external financial audit.

If she will not resign, we implore the State Executive Committee, many of whom know the four of us closely, to listen to us, hear our stories, and make the right decision to end this cycle of pain and chaos.

There is still time to salvage the 2022 election cycle and prevent the atrocities we have heard from continuing to occur under her regime, but it will take swift decisive action. It will be impossible for our Party to earn back the trust of delegates, donors, activists, staff, and voters if Carnahan remains Chair.

Please stay tuned for more about our experiences working for the Republican Party of Minnesota under Jennifer Carnahan.

Signed,

Kevin Poindexter (MN GOP Executive Director May 2018 – November 2019)

Becky Alery (MN GOP Executive Director November 2019 – October 2020)

Christine Snell (MN GOP Executive Director February 2021 – April 2021)

Andy Aplikowski (MN GOP Political Director May 2020 – November 2020, Contractor April 2021, Executive Director May 2021 – August 2021)

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.

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