Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday pushed back forcefully against a House GOP leader who said a day before that his administration should better protect state employees from sexual harassment and retaliation.
Dayton’s harsh rebuke and defense of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman come on the heels of an e-mailed letter the governor received Monday.
Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, asked the administration to review state policies following a lawsuit filed by a former deputy commissioner of insurance at the Minnesota Commerce Department.
Timothy Vande Hey alleges he was sexually harassed and retaliated against. Vande Hey said he resigned his position because of retaliation he endured after reporting violations of the state’s public records law.
Dayton, while insisting the facts have not all yet come in, told reporters that Scott’s letter “is another example of where a legislator is way out of bounds.”
“For her to swallow whole the allegations made by one disgruntled former employee making very, very serious accusations against other state employees is defamation of character,” Dayton said. “If I were that employee, I would hire a lawyer and I’d sue Representative Scott for defamation of character because of the allegations that she’s swallowing whole and she’s perpetrating out there.”
He added: “I don’t know the facts; I’m not taking one side or the other, but for her to just jump on and use that as a political sideshow, I think is so irresponsible on the part of a legislator.”
In a statement, Scott said “Governor Dayton’s comments today prove the point in my letter.”
She added: “Rather than show commitment to a full and fair hearing for the whistleblower, the administration is circling the wagons and dismissing these serious allegations without regard for the message sent to other state employees facing threats and retaliation.”
Dayton in recent days has said little about the lawsuit, saying Rothman has his complete confidence.
A call seeking comment from Scott was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Ricardo Lopez • 651-925-5042