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Rep. Tony Cornish suspended amid sexual harassment allegations

Plus: U of M to kick off awareness campaign about sexual misconduct; man accused of killing neighbor who intervened in domestic disturbance arrested in St. Paul; candidates applaud ranked-choice voting process; and more.

State Rep. Tony Cornish
MinnPost file photo by James Nord

Cornish. Stribbers Jennifer Bjorhus and J. Patrick Coolican write: “Allegations of sexual harassment and offensive behavior by male lawmakers swirled at Minnesota’s Capitol on Thursday, with DFL Sen. Dan Schoen facing demands from his own party’s leaders that he resign while two women leveled new complaints against Republican state Rep. Tony Cornish. Late Thursday, House Speaker Kurt Daudt issued a statement saying he has suspended Cornish’s House Public Safety Committee chairmanship and asked the House’s nonpartisan human resources staff to look into the allegations.”

MPR’s Brian Bakst says: “Cornish, R-Vernon Center, is a powerful member of the Minnesota House Republican majority who chairs the public safety policy and finance committee. A former police officer, he is serving his eighth term in the House and has often led the coalition that supports Second Amendment rights. Cornish initially declined an interview request to discuss the lobbyist’s claims. Later, though, he agreed to be interviewed and called the allegations specific to his office ‘damned lies.’ The texts, he added, were between two consenting adults who had talked about a possible relationship. ‘I’m not a saint but that activity in my room never happened,’ he said, adding that he intended to fight the accusations and had no intention of resigning.’”

Better than nothing. Josh Verges of the PiPress says, “The University of Minnesota will embark on a public awareness campaign and expanded training with the message that everyone on campus is responsible for preventing sexual misconduct. After a series of high-profile incidents involving student-athletes and staff, President Eric Kaler in May tasked public health dean John Finnegan with leading an initiative to combat sexual assault and harassment. … Kaler said he’d set aside $540,000 over two years for the work, with future funding to be determined later.”

Tragic. The Pioneer Press’ Sarah Horner writes: “St. Paul police arrested a man carrying a large knife and a bottle of tequila Tuesday after he killed a neighbor who tried to intervene in a domestic disturbance, authorities say. Htoo Day, 61, of St. Paul was charged Thursday with one count of second-degree intentional murder in the fatal stabbing of a 29-year-old woman in the heart, according to the criminal complaint filed against him in Ramsey County District Court. Paw Boh Htoo was trying to help Day’s wife and children make arrangements to stay someplace else until tension subsided, according to the complaint.”

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Let’s just say that not everyone agrees. The Strib’s Emma Nelson writes: “Candidates who won City Council and mayoral races in Minneapolis this week — and some who didn’t — applauded the ranked-choice voting process Thursday, saying it kept campaigns positive and encouraged voter participation. ‘Ranked-choice voting is a strong way for us to increase democracy in the city of Minneapolis,’ said Jeremiah Ellison, who won a North Side council seat. ‘I’m really happy to be in a system that allows for everybody to exercise their full right and their full thought as a voter.’”

Not working. In the Strib, Maya Rao says, “When Phil Klenk injured himself with a shovel during yard work, his wife, Lisa, drove him more than an hour from their home in Winthrop, Minn., to the VA hospital in Minneapolis for urgent care. … Both veterans, the Klenks had high hopes for a federal program that promised an easier way for rural service members to receive medical treatment close to home. But Lisa Klenk, the veterans service officer for Sibley County, quickly found the Veterans Choice Program to be so bureaucratic and slow-moving — it took her 2½ months to get a physical therapy appointment near home — that she’s reverted to visiting VA hospitals in Minneapolis and St. Cloud, 75 miles away.”

Another all too familiar story. Gretchen Ehlke of the AP says, “Family members of a 14-year-old boy fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy on a northern Wisconsin reservation questioned on Thursday why the teen, who they describe as loving and kind, was gunned down. Holly Gauthier said authorities have provided few details about the death of her son, 14-year-old Jason Pero, an 8th grader who died on the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s reservation Wednesday.”