State Rep. Denny McNamara announced Tuesday he's bringing an ethics charge against a Minneapolis park lobbyist after a House ethics panel declined to find probable cause to proceed with a complaint against him.
The Hastings Republican said he was bringing the complaint against Maryann Campo, one of several lobbyists on contract at the state Capitol for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. He announced his decision after the committee acted on a complaint brought against him earlier this month by fellow Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis. It voted 2-1 against finding probable cause to investigate the charge by Kahn that his behavior violated House rules.
McNamara called Kahn's complaint frivolous. “Throughout this process I have sought to highlight that votes cast by members of the legislature, whether Republican or Democrat, should never be held against their family members. As I made very clear, my integrity is not for sale and I’m glad today that my name has been cleared.”
He said servers had made at least three attempts to serve Campo with the complaint, whose contents he said he could not disclose. But McNamara on June 8 responded to the Kahn complaint by accusing Campo of making a threat involving the Park Board cutting off business with his son's tree-supply business.
He announced the complaint after another legislator testified that she'd been told by Campo that, "I don't know why we would buy trees from his son's business anymore." That legislator, St. Paul DFLer Alice Hausman, testified on McNamara's behalf.
The Park Board has bought trees from the Hastings area firm Hoffman & McNamara for years as one of multiple suppliers. Hoffman testified that he and a partner and their wives sold the firm to Hoffman's son Mike in 2004, and that he received the final payment in 2011. He said the Hoffman and McNamara name remains on a separate real estate business that he retains an interest in.
Kahn accused McNamara of shouting accusations against her and another Park Board lobbyist, Brian Rice, in a mid-May meeting in his office. McNamara has said he thought that the threat had been made by Rice but learned later it came from Campo. She has denied making such a statement.
Kahn alleged that McNamara threatened to expose the threats unless they agreed to a proposal that changed the distribution of metro money previously flowing exclusively to a regional park in north Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center. But McNamara said that was a twisting of statements that had threatened his son's business.
Kahn testified that McNamara "screamed at us to get out of his office and slammed the door," adding "I have never felt so threatened and domineered by a fellow legislator."
But McNamara testified that his ire was directed mostly at Rice, not Kahn, after they asked him about his former company's last name being on the door of its trucks. Another Republican legislator, Dennis Smith of Maple Grove, who also attended the meeting, backed up that account.
Another legislator, John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, testified for Kahn that he heard words "screamed" and people told to "get out" but was told by Kahn who had said them.
"She was scared," he said of Kahn. Persell said that when he's been involved in domestic violence situations, "A women gets a certain look in her eyes, and I reckon a man does too." McNamara apologized to Kahn after she filed her complaint.
McNamara's attorney, Reid LeBeau, sought to undermine the suggestion that McNamara was chasing sales for his son's firm. He noted that the legislation to change the money flow to the regional park was introduced long before the meeting. Hausman eventually became the chief sponsor, and McNamara included it in an omnibus bill he crafted.
Eventually, a legislated compromise allowed the Park Board to collect the money for three more years and then it will be distributed more equally among metro park agencies.
Ethics Committee Chair Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, and Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, voted against a probable cause finding. DFLer Ray Dehn of Minneapolis voted for it, and Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, declined to vote.