Byline: Kevin Featherly
Lawmakers considering a more expansive definition of off-premises "legislative business" to toughen up the Minnesota House's anti-discrimination and harassment policy have a real world example to consider.
However, as a Dec. 21 House Research investigative summary indicated Friday, it's not clear to what extent, if at all, the alleged behavior of Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, might fit that policy.
Revamped last April, House anti-harassment policy "broadly applies to any activity that involves legislative business and to behavior with third parties in the course of members' legislative work," according to an investigative summary written by nonpartisan House Research attorneys Ben Weeks and Cristina Parra.
"The incident at the heart of this investigation took place away from the legislative workplaceit is not clear that the parties were ever engaged in anything that could be considered 'legislative work,'" the Dec. 21 memo states.
"In sum," it concludes, "it is not entirely clear how the House policy applies to this situation."
Hamilton was accused of sexual misconduct last April by a sexual-assault victim's advocate, Emily Schlecht, of Willmar. She reported Hamilton to St. Paul police for unwanted contact inside his St. Paul apartment on April 13. The case was not prosecuted.
While the memo holds back most details for personnel reasons, Schlecht publicly described what happened. In an on-camera interview, she told WCCO-TV that she met Hamilton at the Capitol and that they discussed her own 2015 sexual assault and his advocacy for victims.
She said she accepted an invitation to his apartment that night because there was a snowstorm and Hamilton encouraged her to avoid driving on bad roads. She said she thought she could trust him, so she agreed.
While there, Schlecht said Hamilton stroked her hair and arms and kissed her on the cheek. He did not engage in any intimate contact, but made her feel trapped and isolated, she said. She later filed a police report, she said, because she felt violated by a man in authority and didn't want that to seem acceptable.
Hamilton denied any misconduct, but self-reported the incident to House HR and issued a statement of apology. On April 26, he was suspended from his committee chairmanship and an investigation was ordered under terms of the House's new discrimination and harassment policy.
That investigation was conducted by Karen Schanfield and Pamela Abbate-Dattilo of...