The Potluck

House Speaker Melissa Hortman responds to Minority Leader Daudt on Thompson

By: - July 21, 2021 2:56 pm

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, addresses reporters on Sep. 11, 2020, ahead of the start of a special legislative session. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer

Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman sent a terse letter Wednesday to Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, saying she will not take any immediate action in dealing with the travails of Rep. John Thompson, DFL-St. Paul, though she has called on him to resign.

Thompson was recently revealed to have been accused in police reports during the aughts of domestic violence, though he was never convicted and denies the allegations. He is also licensed to drive in Wisconsin, not Minnesota, a fact revealed after a traffic stop that led him to accuse the officer of racial profiling. Thompson says the police reports have been falsified and has pledged not to resign.

Daudt — the Republican leader vying to reclaim the speaker’s gavel after losing it to Hortman in the 2018 election — said in his own previous letter to the DFL speaker that Thompson’s “recent actions and reports of abuse and misconduct are unacceptable,” and that “inaction by House leadership in this situation is simply not an option, and it’s our expectation you will take appropriate steps accordingly.”

In her response, Hortman says the speaker’s role is to preside in a fair and neutral manner over recommendations received from the Ethics Committee, “not personally direct an ethics complaint.” She allows that the speaker can take action outside the official ethics process, but is advised by House counsel to wait until any legal proceedings are adjudicated so as not to prejudice them.

She points to an incident in 2019, when Rep. Matt Grossell, R-Clearbrook, “cursed at a nurse, disrupted the Regions Hospital emergency room and accused police officers of ‘brutality,'” as the Pioneer Press reported at the time, citing police reports.

“I will follow the same protocol” as in 2019, she writes.

Republicans say she’s not being consistent. In stripping Grossell of his public safety and judiciary committee assignment, she said she looked at police reports. In the Thompson case, she could similarly rely on police reports of domestic violence to strip him of committee assignments or staff.

Daudt replied to Hortman’s letter in a statement Wednesday: “I’m 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.”

Hortman told the Reformer in an interview Wednesday, “I refuse to operate on the timeline of social media outrage. I plan on following the House process and procedures and rules.”

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and toddler son.