By Mike Kaszuba
Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, is scheduled to appear Thursday at a special meeting of Senate District 50 DFLers to answer questions over his attempt to pass legislation to improve fishing on a lake in northeastern Minnesota where he owns a cabin.
William Krueger, the Senate District 50 DFL chair, said he called the meeting after receiving many calls and emails from DFLers upset with Chaudhary. "Since I've been chair almost 10 years, I've never had so many calls and emails," he added.
While Krueger acknowledged that some angry DFLers want to rescind the party's endorsement of Chaudhary, he said Thursday's meeting would be to "take everybody's pulse" before deciding a next move. "Nothing has lit up my district like this did," he added.
The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Fridley community center, said Krueger, who added that Chaudhary has agreed to attend.
Chaudhary said Tuesday he welcomed the scrutiny. "I hope it's a large turnout," he said. "I hope there's as many people as possible." The senator said he planned to "profusely apologize for my policy error, which it was."
He added that he had received few angry emails and phone calls from constituents. He said the purpose of the meeting would be to "let anyone frustrated with me, give me what for."
In an unusual move in the last days of the Legislature, Chaudhary walked onto the House floor on May 12 and had a colleague insert an amendment regarding Fish Lake Reservoir near Duluth just as a complex game and fish bill was about to be approved. The amendment asked the state Department of Natural Resources to adopt special regulations for the lake, where some residents have complained that the walleye population grows too slowly.
Chaudhary said he acted because he was led to believe an overwhelmingly majority of the lake's residents -- the state senator owns a cabin on the lake -- wanted him to act. But he has since said that it was not clear how many residents wanted something done. Chaudhary said that in hindsight he should not have acted, but maintains he did nothing unethical.
Senate Republicans meanwhile last week sent a letter of inquiry to a Senate ethics panel, asking the panel to find out what happened.
Chaudhary, a three-term senator, filed for re-election Monday. He said that he had heard from some of his Senate colleagues, whom he said were "mainly supportive."
Chaudhary was also critical of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto Tuesday of the game and fish legislation, and the governor's own criticism of the Fish Lake Reservoir amendment. "[The language] was added by amendment in the House," he said. "I don't see how that's improper."
"I have to let him speak," said Krueger. "I have asked the people that are upset with him to show up and speak to him directly. Krueger said that Chaudhary called Tuesday, asking that Thursday's meeting be open to the media.
"I had people that. . .wanted his head on a plate, and I have people that don't want us to do anything because they're embarrassed and they think this will make it worse," he said.
Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller had little to say about Chaudhary when asked Tuesday. "All I know is what I read in the paper," he said.