Minnesota House researchers could not determine how a new harassment policy applies to an accusation that Rep. Rod Hamilton touched a woman without her consent at his apartment in April.
"The incident at the heart of this investigation took place away from the legislative workplace," House staff said in a memo released Friday. "It is not clear that the parties were ever engaged in anything that could be considered 'legislative work.' "
At this point, it does not appear further disciplinary action will be taken.
A Bemidji woman said in April that Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, kissed her cheek and touched her, including stroking her face, arms and hands, without her consent. She reported the unwanted touching to St. Paul police, but no charges have been filed.
Hamilton said in a statement at the time that he "intended to offer comfort and compassion" and regrets his actions, but said they were not sexual assault.
House Republican leaders suspended Hamilton as Agriculture Finance Committee chairman after the information came out in April. Hamilton was re-elected to an eighth term this year and on Monday House Republicans announced he would be their party's lead on the House Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Division. He could not be reached Friday for comment.
The memo from nonpartisan House research staff Friday to GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Minority Leader Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, did not include details from an outside investigation into the situation. It said investigation details would be kept private for personnel reasons.
It focused on suggested changes to the House policies that govern legislators' behavior. The House had rolled out a new discrimination and harassment policy shortly before the allegation surfaced.
House researchers recommended clarifying the House code of conduct to "more explicitly define what constitutes sound judgment by members."
They also noted that the new policy applies to activities involving legislative business and third parties' behavior when working with lawmakers.
"In sum, it is not entirely clear how the House Policy applies to this situation," research staff wrote.
The memo also noted the House has "expended considerable resources to thoroughly investigate the allegations against Rep. Hamilton," at a cost of $38,128.50. It suggested the House look into other options for conducting any future investigations.
"Nonpartisan staff have made recommendations pertaining to House policies and procedures that we will consider," Hortman, the incoming House Speaker, said in a statement. "Going forward, we will have zero tolerance for harassment in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and I will ensure that our policy is as strong as possible while fair to all concerned. We also will consider changes in state law to protect all employees in Minnesota."
Emily Schlecht, the woman who reported Hamilton's actions to police, was working as an advocate at a Bemidji sexual violence center at the time. She met the legislator through her work preventing sexual violence. She declined to comment on the memo Friday.
In April, the two talked at his Capitol office. The weather was bad and he offered to let her stay at his St. Paul apartment that night.
Schlecht, who said she is a sexual assault survivor, told the Star Tribune in April that that night at his apartment Hamilton asked her to lay her head in his lap and then stroked her face and arms even though he knew she did not like to be touched.
Hamilton said Schlecht came over by him and put her head on a pillow next to him. He said he kissed the top of her head and held her hands, but not in a sexual manner.