Two Republican state lawmakers who accused a park ranger of misstating facts about seeing them “making out” in a parking lot have stepped down from the House ethics committee.
But their accompanying apologies to the law enforcement community weren’t sufficient for House DFLers, who accused them Monday of failing to address their earlier claims that the ranger’s assessment was wrong.
Reps. Tim Kelly and Tara Mack initially disputed the officer’s description of events at an Eagan park, but ultimately paid the fines. That drew criticism Friday from state Rep. Dan Schoen, a Democrat and a licensed peace officer, who said they unfairly attempted to discredit a law enforcement official — since paying the fines equates to pleading guilty.
The pair spoke over the weekend with House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers. Following that conversation, they agreed to step down from the House Ethics Committee.
Kelly and Mack then issued statements on Monday morning apologizing broadly to members of law enforcement.
“I am disappointed in myself for the way I handled my disagreement with a park ranger,” said Kelly, R-Red Wing. “I reacted to this in an emotional way and certainly without respect and professionalism. Several of my own family members serve in law enforcement and I have nothing but respect for the entire community. There is a proper way to handle conflicts and as a state representative you should certainly expect me to do so. I apologize to my constituents, to the law enforcement community and to the state of Minnesota.”
Mack, R-Apple-Valley, said she has been a “strong supporter of our men and women in law enforcement” since being elected.
“I understand that the Park Ranger was trying to do his job,” Mack said. “I have the utmost respect for the work law enforcement does to keep Minnesotans safe and I apologize for offending these great men and women.”
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said their statements failed to address claims about the ranger’s account of the events.
“I have had several members contact me to express concern that Rep. Kelly and Rep. Mack made what increasingly appear to be false claims against law enforcement officials,” Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said in a statement Monday. “They continue to express frustration that with today’s statement, neither member answers the central question about whether the initial claim that the officer lied was false, or takes responsibility for their actions. That’s what members believe is the central issue and what needs resolution.”
Schoen reiterated his request that they apologize to the ranger and the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office.
Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie wrote that Mack “changed her tune” after initially saying she was “glad the deputy came along to save her from an uncomfortable situation,” according to conversations obtained by the Associated Press.
“She referred to it as divine intervention,” Leslie said of his first conversation with Mack.