A lifelong resident of Minnesota, Michael Brodkorb is an experienced communications, social media, public affairs & research consultant and is an observer of all things political. He also blogs at politics.mn. He lives in Eagan with his family.

Posts about Politics

Campaign board postpones ruling on Tomassoni's new job

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: February 3, 2015 - 1:57 PM

The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board was scheduled to deliberate today on an advisory opinion requested by State Senator David Tomassoni's (DFL-Chisholm) about whether his new position as Executive Director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) created a conflict for Tomassoni.

But since one member of the five-member board was absent, Ed Oliver, the board was unable to vote on the advisory opinion after an additional board member, Christian Sande, recused himself from voting because his brother works for Tomassoni at the Minnesota Senate. 

According to Minnesota Statutes 10A.02.3, "[t]he concurring vote of four members of the board is required to decide any matter before the board."

Scott Sande, Christian's brother, is the committee admistrator for Minnesota Senate's Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Budget Division Committee, which is chaired by Tomassoni.

The draft advisory opinion, which was prepared by staff and not the appointed board of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, states Tomassoni's new position does not present a conflict of interest with his service in the Minnesota Senate.

The board is now scheduled to meet on Friday to deliberate on the advisory opinon requested by Tomassoni. 

Picture source: Minnesota Senate

Tomassoni will "remain accessible" to RAMS board during legislative session

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: January 31, 2015 - 1:18 PM

State Senator David Tomassoni's (DFL-Chisholm), confirmed today he will "remain accessible" to the board of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) despite previously claiming he would be taking a take a leave of absence during the legislative session.

Tomassoni offered new comments about his position with RAMS in response to questions about a memorandum from Tomassoni that was posted on the city of Ely's website which discusses upcoming meetings for the association

Tomassoni had previously made public statements that he would not be starting his job with RAMS until after the legislative session. Tomassoni's employment agreement with RAMS also states that he "will take a leave of absence" during the legislative session. 

While Tomassoni repeated his assertion that he will not be paid during his leave of absence, the decision to "remain accessible" to the RAMS board triggered quick criticism from a member of the Minnesota Senate. 

State Senator Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville) said, "Senator Tomassoni has defended his position with RAMS in part by declaring that he is on leave of absence until the end of the Legislative Session." But Thompson added that Tomassoni "remains active in the organization and admits that he will remain 'accessible' during the Session." 

Thompson previously called on Tomassoni to should request an advisory opinion from the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board to determine if Tomassoni is a "de facto lobbyist" for RAMS.

Tomassoni memo shows he is working for RAMS during legislative session

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: January 31, 2015 - 12:43 AM

A memorandum from State Senator David Tomassoni's (DFL-Chisholm), which discusses upcoming meetings related to his new job as Executive Director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS), shows Tomassoni is doing work for RAMS during the current legislative session. 

Tomassoni had previously made public statements that he would not be starting his job with RAMS until after the legislative session. Tomassoni's employment agreement with RAMS also states that he "will take a leave of absence" during the legislative session. 

The decision by Tomassoni to accept a new job with RAMS while continuing to serve in the Minnesota Senate has generated widespread criticism since his hiring was announced earlier this month.

Tomassoni responded to the initial allegations of a potential conflict of interest by claiming he would not be starting his job with RAMS until after the legislative session.

Tomassoni's memorandum, which was included in over 100 pages of documents for an upcoming meeting of the Ely City Council and is addressed to "RAMS Board, Members, & Associate Members" is also less definitive about RAMS hiring a lobbyist for the legislative session.

Tomassoni included "potential lobbyist hiring" as one of the subjects to be discussed at a RAMS board meeting. But in materials provided to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board last week, Tomassoni's attorney echoed his assertions that RAMS would be hiring a lobbyist.

Tomassoni did not respond to an e-mail sent to him late tonight requesting a comment about his memorandum. I will have more information on this story tomorrow, so please check back for updates. 

Picture source: Minnesota Senate

David Tomassoni Memorandum to RAMS by Michael Brodkorb

Tomassoni faces new questions about potential conflict of interest

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: January 29, 2015 - 10:33 PM

J. Patrick Coolican of the Star Tribune reported this afternoon on a new twist involving State Senator David Tomassoni's (DFL-Chisholm) decision to accept a new position as Executive Director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) while continuing to serve in the Minnesota Senate. 

From Coolican's story:

Sen. David Tomassoni, facing criticism for taking a job as executive director of an organization that lobbies the Legislature, is being represented in the matter before a state board by Michael Ahern, an attorney with the firm Dorsey & Whitney. 

Click here to read Coolican's complete story which details how Tomassoni's decision to retain Ahern as his attorney is creating a new series of questions about potential conflicts of interest. I'll have more on this subject tomorrow with additional analysis, so please check back for updates.

Senator says Tomassoni's new job creates "the appearance of impropriety"

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb Updated: January 28, 2015 - 8:27 PM

The controversy involving State Senator David Tomassoni's (DFL-Chisholm) decision to accept a new position as Executive Director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) while continuing to serve in the Minnesota Senate is showing no signs of slowing down. 

In a statement released late this afternoon, State Senator Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville) said Sen. Tomassoni should request an advisory opinion from the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board to determine if Tomassoni is a "de facto lobbyist" for RAMS. Thompson added that Tomassoni's new job with RAMS may have created "an actual conflict of interest" with his service in the Minnesota Senate.

Thompson also said Tomassoni should ask the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board if his role as a board member of the IRRRB conflicts with his job with RAMS.

Below is the complete statement from Thompson:

Senator Tomassoni has put himself in a position that may very well result in an actual conflict of interest between his employment with RAMS and his work as a Member of the Minnesota Senate. At the very least, there is the appearance of impropriety.

I believe he has the responsibility to request an opinion as to whether he is a de facto lobbyist, which would require him to register and comply with laws applicable to lobbyists. Also, any analysis of his situation must take into account Senator Tomassoni's role with the IRRRB. He should ask the Board to take that into consideration.

As previously reported by the Star Tribune, RAMS has received grants from the IRRRB totaling over $200,000  since 2005. 

Yesterday, staff of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board published a draft advisory opinion which said Tomassoni's new position with RAMS does not present a conflict of interest with his service in the Minnesota SenateThe advisory opinion was requested by Tomassoni and will be deliberated at a public meeting of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board next week

RAMS' employment agreement with Tomassoni was provided to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board by Tomassoni's attorney and was included in the materials released yesterday by board staff. While the employment agreement says Tomassoni will not be a lobbyist for RAMS, many of the job duties assigned to Tomassoni could be interpreted as lobbying. 

If it was determined that Tomassoni's job duites as the Executive Director of RAMS required him to register as a lobbyist with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, the Permanent Rules of the Minnesota Senate would restrict his ability to continue serving as state senator

Tomassoni and communications staff with the Senate Majority Caucus did not respond to a request for comment about Thompson's statement. I'll have more on this subject tomorrow, so please check back for updates.

Picture sources: Minnesota Senate

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