A proposed change to how the Minnesota House handles sexual harassment complaints through its Ethics Committee would improve the current process, which is filled with loopholes and political roadblocks.

The proposal by Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, and Rep. Marion O’Neill, R-Maple Lake, would open up the process, set specific deadlines for complaints and strengthen due-process rules.

The biggest and most important change would remove the restriction that only House members can file complaints. Under the proposed change, members of the public, lobbyists or executive branch employees, as well as House members, could file complaints. Those complaints would go to the House majority and minority leaders, who would then be official complainants for the purposes of the Ethics Committee.

The initial complaints could be anonymous but must be made under oath. The complaints would be required to be sent from the minority and majority leaders to the Ethics Committee within seven days and a probable cause hearing must be held within 30 days of that.

The proposal also calls for an outside independent employment attorney to investigate the case and submit a report to the Ethics Committee, which would then determine probable cause. Upon a finding of probable cause, a contested case hearing would be held on the merits of the case, no longer than 60 days after the probable-cause determination.

The information in the case would be private up to the point of the contested case hearing, which would be public.

Finally, the Ethics Committee chair must issue a disposition in a case no later than 90 days after receiving a complaint.

We would like to see more transparency along the way to the contested case hearing. But the bipartisan effort in the House represents a good first step to putting teeth into the harassment complaint procedures, ensuring due process and ensuring that no one has to work in a harassing work environment without recourse.

FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE MANKATO FREE PRESS