The Minnesota Senate is bringing in an outside investigator to look into the handling of harassment complaints made against a former legislative staff member.
Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman said Thursday that he will hire an investigator to look into what happened in 2019 and 2020 when a former Senate DFL aide said she was harassed by a former House DFL staffer — actions she said continued when they were working on the campaign trail.
Senate members from both sides of the aisle had been calling for a deeper look into whether their newly updated policies for responding to harassment complaints were followed at the time.
"Senate Republicans support an independent investigation into the claims made by a former staffer to determine whether Senate policy was followed, whether individuals in power took responsible actions to stop harassment, and what changes may be necessary to ensure this does not happen again," a group of Senate Republicans said in a statement Thursday. "The claims made by a former staffer were difficult and heartbreaking to learn about."
The Minnesota Reformer reported last week that Cynthia Callais said she was sexually harassed by Clay Schwartzwalter while working as a legislative assistant for Sen. Jason Isaacson, DFL-Shoreview, and as a campaign staffer for the Senate DFL caucus.
Schwartzwalter was a legislative aide in the House and in 2020 became campaign manager for Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury. He is Isaacson's half-brother.
Callais wrote on Twitter last week that, "11 months ago, I turned to DFL leaders to protect me in my workplace. Instead, I was told to find another job. My story is not unique — we are susceptible to sexual harassment in nearly every aspect of our lives."
Neither Callais nor Schwartzwalter responded to requests for comment for this story. Neither works for the Legislature any longer.
On Tuesday, Kent and assistant Senate DFL leaders sent the secretary of the Senate a letter requesting an independent review of the Senate's nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policy, and how it was implemented in this situation.
"The staff member's statements and a news article pointed to deficiencies among a number of actors within the Senate as a whole, including on the part of Senate Human Resources following the staffer's communication of the allegations to HR," the Senate DFL leaders wrote.
They said the DFL caucus is reviewing how it handled the situation and "are committed to improving our own response to these types of concerns." They asked to be included in the independent investigation.
Jessie Van Berkel • 651-925-5044