A rookie state lawmaker who is a licensed insurance professional was hit with a $10,000 fine after fudging the hours of a continuing education course on ethics that he taught last year.
Rep. Robert J. Loonan, R-Shakopee, was also suspended from teaching for three months, according to a Dec. 8 consent order posted on the Minnesota Department of Commerce website.
Loonan is an American Family Insurance agent in Shakopee and was sworn in at the state House of Representatives in January. His teaching suspension ends March 14.
Commerce Department spokeswoman Libby Caulum said she couldn’t elaborate on the consent order, but described the infraction as “relatively uncommon.”
In an interview Monday, Loonan blamed the action on a complaint filed by a competitor. He said he has been training insurance agents for more than two decades.
“My classes are a big deal to me,” Loonan said. “Everyone involved knows how trite it all was.”
According to Loonan, the issue was an ethics class he taught in Mankato in February 2014. About 21 people in the class were from the Twin Cities, he said. A blizzard was approaching and roads were bad, so he started the afternoon class early and sped through it with no breaks to get people on their way, he said.
“I knocked almost an hour and a half off [the class],” he said.
Yet students were credited for the full four hours.
When Commerce, which regulates insurance in Minnesota, investigated the matter and attended another class of Loonan’s in Maple Grove last spring, the department found he was using branded materials in the classroom, he said, which is another violation.
Continuing education instructors are not allowed to promote anything or use branded materials during courses. Loonan said that the person who set up his class that day placed notepads and pens with the logo of a restoration company in front of students, instead of keeping them at the registration table.
Loonan serves on the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform committee, which oversees the Commerce Department. He said he has paid the fine.