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All Minnesota GOP U.S. House members vote against Jan. 6 commission

Plus: state Court of Appeals to hear arguments on whether three former MPD officers should face additional charge in killing of George Floyd; man charged in connection with 2010 murder of wife in St. Paul; tornado touches down near Northfield; and more.

Tear gas is released into the crowd of rioters during clashes with Capitol police on January 6.
Tear gas is released into the crowd of rioters during clashes with U.S. Capitol police on January 6.
REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

For the Star Tribune, Hunter Woodall reports, “Rep. Dean Phillips, who was in the House chamber when insurrectionists violently stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, was troubled on Wednesday as most of his Republican colleagues — including those from Minnesota — came out against a bipartisan inquiry into what happened. ‘If anything should be unanimous in this institution, it should be this,’ Phillips, D-Minn., said in an interview before the vote Wednesday. Subsequent efforts by some Republicans to downplay what happened are ‘staggering to me,’ he said. … The House’s 252-175 vote in favor of the legislation saw Democrats, including four from Minnesota, line up behind the proposed 10-person commission. While 35 House Republicans broke ranks in support, Minnesota’s four Republican members voted against it.”

In the Pioneer Press, Mara H. Gottfried writes: “A man has been arrested and charged in connection with his wife’s murder 11 years after he told authorities an intruder had broken into their St. Paul home and that she was shot during a struggle. Before Wednesday, no one had been arrested in 25-year-old Heidi Marie Firkus’ killing, though police have said they never stopped investigating the case. Information on what led to charges against Nicholas James Firkus wasn’t immediately available. The criminal complaint will be unsealed after Firkus, 38, makes his first court appearance Thursday morning, according to the Ramsey County attorney’s office.… Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and Police Chief Todd Axtell are scheduled to speak at a news conference Thursday morning about the case.”

The AP reports: “The Minnesota Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Thursday on whether three former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd ‘s death should face an additional count of aiding and abetting third-degree murder. Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao are scheduled to face trial next March on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. Prosecutors want to add the third charge following an appeals court ruling in February. The three-judge panel has 90 days to make a ruling. Based on the February opinion and a related ruling in the case of former officer Derek Chauvin, it’s possible the judges could rule in favor of the state and send the case back to the lower court to add the charge.”

Says Rob Olson for FOX 9 TV: “There’s a new focus on the state of businesses in downtown Minneapolis. On Friday, a group of Minneapolis leaders are bringing the discussion to center stage. Part of the reactivation are three key dates when workers will return, while the rest of the plan is convincing everyone else to come back for fun. … On the workforce front, about 24% of employees are back in the office at least part-time. The Downtown Council has surveyed companies and most target the day after Labor Day as when they’ll be fully back, though many will adopt hybrid approaches.… The other half of the revival is drawing the entertainment crowd. Expect a full court press on outreach, largely on social and digital, coming from Meet Minneapolis.”

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For KSTP-TV Tommy Wiita says, “On Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced his office has resolved an enforcement action against a landlord who forced her tenants out of their home in violation of an executive order that protects tenants from eviction during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency. According to a release, Dakota County landlord Joanna Wentzlaff was sued by the state in February, alleging that Wentzlaff used an exemption in Executive Order 20-79, which permits landlords to terminate a lease if they need to move into the property themselves, as a pretext to force her tenants out so that she could sell her home. Wentzlaff falsely claimed she or a family member needed to move into the rental property when, in reality, she had already hired a real estate agent to help her sell it. The Apple Valley property has since been sold.”

Sydney Mook writes for the Forum News Service: “Mark Kennedy, a former University of North Dakota president and congressman from Minnesota, will be leaving his job as University of Colorado president on July 1, with a $1.3 million payout in hand. The University of Colorado Board of Regents voted 8-1 on Wednesday, May 19, to pay out Kennedy’s contract. They also voted 6-3 against allowing Kennedy to serve out the rest of his contract. Kennedy’s total payout will be $1.35 million. He was set to make $850,000 in the final year of his three-year contract; the additional dollars include unused vacation time and other money.”

Also from FOX 9: “A damaging tornado was reported on the ground in Webster, Minnesota Wednesday night, which is about six miles west of Northfield. Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn told FOX 9 he saw a possible tornado touchdown, however, he has not seen any damage. Though, with it getting dark, he said crews will likely have to return in the morning for a full review of the area. At one point, a tornado warning was issued for portions of four counties southwest of the Twin Cities metro area. Radar rotation was seen near the Lakeville and Apple Valley area just before 9 p.m. The severe weather worked its way north up the I-35 corridor throughout the night Wednesday.”

For MPR, Kirsti Marohn reports, “Stearns County and several advocacy organizations signed a community policing agreement this week aimed at improving transparency, accountability and trust between law enforcement and communities of color. The agreement is a collaborative effort between the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office and groups representing people of color, immigrants, refugees and other marginalized communities in the central Minnesota county. … Director Ma Elena Gutierrez said community members have experienced fear and distrust over how they’ve been treated in the past by the sheriff’s office, including being pulled over while driving without knowing or understanding the reason.”

In the Duluth News Tribune, Peter Passi reports, “The Duluth City Council will be asked Monday to sign off on plans to install the largest solar energy array the city has ever seen. If the resolution passes, it will open the way for Duluth to lease out 9.5 acres of land off Riley Road to Rendfield Land Co., a subsidiary of Allete Inc. Allete, the parent company of Minnesota Power, proposes to invest about $3.9 million to install a 1.6-megawatt array across the road from Lake Park Athletic Complex. The output from the solar panels is expected to be sufficient to power about 300 homes.”