State Rep. Matt Grossell has been removed from the House Public Safety and Judiciary committees after House Speaker Melissa Hortman deemed he had abused his office during a drunken arrest in May.
Grossell, R-Clearbrook, was charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing in May after he repeatedly shoved and grappled with a security guard at a hotel bar near the Capitol. When police found him intoxicated, he was taken to Regions Hospital but then refused to leave and was brought to jail.
Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, wrote in a letter to Grossell on Wednesday that she was concerned about both incidents. But Hortman said the biggest issue for her was an “implied threat” he made to police several hours later.
According to police reports, Grossell walked into St. Paul Police headquarters after he got out of jail and told an officer working the front desk that he is a state representative and former Clearwater County sheriff (he was a sheriff’s deputy). He stated that he did not know why he was arrested, but that “it will be hell to pay.”
“I have determined that the appropriate sanction for your implied threat to law enforcement by calling attention to your elected office and stating that ‘it will be hell to pay’ is your removal from the committee work that most directly shapes legislation that affects members of our law enforcement community,” Hortman wrote in her letter.
Grossell’s lawyer, Minneapolis attorney Ryan Garry, called Hortman’s decision unfair.
“Rep. Grossell’s criminal charges are being dismissed,” Garry said in a statement. “He made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. Matt overcame adversity at great courage. He should be applauded, not demoted. I’m disappointed that the Speaker removed a former law enforcement officer, and … passionate representative, from the Public Safety Committee. To me that does not reflect the value of redemption.”
Grossell reached an agreement in June that will allow him to avoid any convictions if he completes a six-month court diversion program. He is required to pay a $150 fee and do 16 hours of community service while the case is pending, Garry said, and after that the charges would be dismissed.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said in a statement Wednesday that Hortman’s decision to remove Grossell from the committees three months after the incident was politically motivated.
“Speaker Hortman is removing a Minnesotan with more than 12 years of law enforcement experience who was shot in the line of duty and has suffered permanent health consequences as a result of his service keeping Minnesotans safe. This is the latest example of House Democrats’ outright hostility for law enforcement,” Daudt said.
Although Grossell has agreed to participate in a diversion program to avoid criminal penalties, his behavior still conflicts with the expectations for a House member, Hortman wrote. She said she reviewed how past incidents with other members have been handled to determine what his reprimand should be.
Grossell, in his second term, remains assigned to two other committees on veterans and military affairs and capital investment.