Daudt: Cornish's Chairmanship Suspended Amid Sexual Harassment Claims

November 11, 2017 01:54 PM

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt has suspended Rep. Tony Cornish's chairmanship to the Public Safety and Security Policy Finance Committee amid two claims of sexual harassment.

In a statement Thursday, Daudt said he has also instructed the House's human resource department to begin a complaint process.

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Cornish said he is aware both Erin Maye Quade and an anonymous woman are accusing him of sexual harassment.

RELATED: Maye Quade, Port Call for Sexual Harassment Task Force for Legislature

Cornish said Maye Quade is accusing him of sending inappropriate text messages. He said he had texted Maye Quade but claimed they were not inappropriate.

"That was just a case where Erin Maye Quade walked to her desk, and she waved at me; and I waved at her, and someone sent me a text message: 'Did you get busted looking at Erin Maye Quade?'," Cornish said. "So I texted Erin and after each one of her responses she said, 'Ha, ha.' So it was a friendly banter back and forth between Erin Quade and I."

Maye Quade declined multiple requests for comment specifically about Cornish. On Thursday, she issued a statement saying there's a lot sexual harassment in the Minnesota House.

"I've experienced it by multiple members of the majority and reported it," she said. 

By "majority," Maye Quade is referring to Republicans who control the House.

However, Maye Quade has not filed a formal complaint with the non-partisan Minnesota House human resources office even though she did confide in Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, who was then an assistant minority leader.

The House "Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment" says, "Supervisors have a responsibility to... promptly report discrimination or harassment... to the House Director of Human Resources or House Employment Law Counsel."

"It is important always to remember when people experience harassment and assault that we have to let that person guide us in how we proceed," Murphy told KSTP.

Cornish also faces allegations from a female DFL lobbyist who accuses him of inappropriate physical contact in his office and harassment via text message. Cornish said he and the lobbyist were planning a romantic relationship, and the allegations are false.

However, the woman who wants to remain anonymous for now because it could hurt her career, told KSTP Friday afternoon that Cornish has repeatedly sexually harassed her for nearly ten years. She says it has "never, ever stopped."

She denies ever pursuing a relationship with Cornish. She has retained an attorney to represent her.

Also on Friday, former Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who served from 2011 to 2013, says he had a "private meeting" with Cornish at one point and told him "in the strongest possible terms that sexual harassment of any kind is unacceptable and will not be tolerated..."

He told Cornish he would immediately begin disciplinary proceedings against him if he received a formal complaint. Zellers now says he thinks Cornish should resign.

RELATED: Governor, Legislative Leaders Call for Senator to Resign Amidst Sexual Harassment Claims

No formal complaints have been made against Cornish, and he told KSTP he has not considered resigning.

On Thursday night, Minnesota House Speak Kurt Daudt said in a statement he has suspended Cornish's chairmanship of the House Public Safety Committee and has instructed the House human resources office to begin a complaint process.

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Tom Hauser

Copyright 2017 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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