The controversy involving State Senator David Tomassoni's (DFL-Chisholm) decision to accept a new position as Executive Director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) while continuing to serve in the Minnesota Senate is showing no signs of slowing down.
In a statement released late this afternoon, State Senator Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville) said Sen. Tomassoni should request an advisory opinion from the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board to determine if Tomassoni is a "de facto lobbyist" for RAMS. Thompson added that Tomassoni's new job with RAMS may have created "an actual conflict of interest" with his service in the Minnesota Senate.
Thompson also said Tomassoni should ask the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board if his role as a board member of the IRRRB conflicts with his job with RAMS.
Below is the complete statement from Thompson:
Senator Tomassoni has put himself in a position that may very well result in an actual conflict of interest between his employment with RAMS and his work as a Member of the Minnesota Senate. At the very least, there is the appearance of impropriety.
I believe he has the responsibility to request an opinion as to whether he is a de facto lobbyist, which would require him to register and comply with laws applicable to lobbyists. Also, any analysis of his situation must take into account Senator Tomassoni's role with the IRRRB. He should ask the Board to take that into consideration.
As previously reported by the Star Tribune, RAMS has received grants from the IRRRB totaling over $200,000 since 2005.
Yesterday, staff of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board published a draft advisory opinion which said Tomassoni's new position with RAMS does not present a conflict of interest with his service in the Minnesota Senate. The advisory opinion was requested by Tomassoni and will be deliberated at a public meeting of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board next week.
RAMS' employment agreement with Tomassoni was provided to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board by Tomassoni's attorney and was included in the materials released yesterday by board staff. While the employment agreement says Tomassoni will not be a lobbyist for RAMS, many of the job duties assigned to Tomassoni could be interpreted as lobbying.
If it was determined that Tomassoni's job duites as the Executive Director of RAMS required him to register as a lobbyist with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, the Permanent Rules of the Minnesota Senate would restrict his ability to continue serving as state senator.
Tomassoni and communications staff with the Senate Majority Caucus did not respond to a request for comment about Thompson's statement. I'll have more on this subject tomorrow, so please check back for updates.
Picture sources: Minnesota Senate