Earlier this week, the Star Tribune reported that a Minnesota Republican representative kicked a member of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota team out of a public meeting on property taxes.
And today, a Star Tribune story shows that the GOP Representative, tax committee chair Rep. Steve Drazkowski, is misleading the public.
Rep. Drazkowski told our employee at the meeting that it was a private meeting, and therefore he could kick people out. This is confusing because the meeting was advertised as a public event through official mediums of the Minnesota House, among other reasons. (See my earlier post explaining differences between public and private meetings.
When asked about this discrepancy, Drazkowski told the Star Tribune he kicked the person out for space reasons.
But, unfortunately for Drazkowski, a witness confirms that he heard Drazkowski say it was a private meeting.
The Star Tribune writes:
Burnsville resident Jim Elwell, who attended the meeting and witnessed the exchange between Drazkowski and the tracker, disputed that account. In an interview with the Star Tribune, Elwell said he remembered the GOP lawmaker told the tracker to leave because the meeting was private. He also said the room was about two-thirds full.
What’s Drazkowski’s response to the confirming accounts?
“The assertion that I said that it wasn’t a public meeting — I don’t recall saying that,” Drazkowski said.
It’s now clear that a Burnsville resident confirmed that Drazkowski did treat the event as a private event on the night of the listening session.
This is problematic for Drazkowski, and it raises many questions about the potential ramifications of his actions.
The Minnesota Ethics Committee is given the power by the Minnesota Constitution to punish members for “disorderly behavior.”
It has generally been taken to include unethical political behavior, actions which may not be illegal according to civil or criminal codes but are an abuse of the public trust and bring discredit upon the institution of the Legislature.
Drazkowski’s actions seem to fit with the MN House definition of unethical political behavior and abuse of the public trust that discredits the legislative body.
So, will the Minnesota House Ethics Committee investigate his actions? Or will they allow this incident to set the precedent that Republican leaders can bar whoever they choose from supposedly public events?
Also, since there have been other similar meetings without controversy, did local Rep. Roz Peterson know Rep. Drazkowski was going to treat this event differently?
These are some of the many questions remaining to be answered.