The newly-elected Republican leader of the Minnesota Senate is trying to get past the political scandal that cost his predecessor her job, but the Senate's top Democrat wants some aspects of the Amy Koch controversy played out in full public view.
Senate DFL Minority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook, Minn., sent a letter Wednesday to GOP Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, urging him to address some lingering ethical and legal questions.
Senate Republicans met behind closed doors for 11 hours Tuesday before announcing their choice of Dave Senjem to replace Amy Koch as majority leader. Koch resigned the leadership post two weeks ago amid revelations of an inappropriate relationship with a Senate staffer.
Senjem said the caucus devoted time during the meeting to rehashing the events that led to the resignation, and Koch participated. It was a good discussion, Senjem said, but he sees no value in doing it again publicly.
"It would be probably the same kind of conversation that would occur in a coffee shop amongst people that had different views on how we handled it. So, I don't think that it would necessarily be productive," Senjem said. "And I'll tell you what, as a caucus we're looking forward. What's happened has happened. It's over. It's done as far as I think we're concerned, and we want to move forward."
But Bakk is not ready to move forward. Bakk is asking Senjem to help restore the integrity and honor of the Minnesota Senate, which he claims were called into question by Koch's resignation. He's particularly troubled by the length of time it took Senate leaders to confront Koch after learning about the alleged relationship. Bakk said Republicans have an obligation to tell the public what happened, when it happened and why they waited to disclose what they knew.
"There are some things we need to understand. Why that happened. That was a pretty serious lapse in judgment, I think," Bakk said. "I think there are some questions that many of us have related to — I'm a little reluctant to call it a cover up, but it starts to look like that."
Bakk suggested that Senate Republicans should file an ethics complaint and conduct a public hearing on the matter. Senjem rejected the suggestion and said his caucus has no interest in an ethics investigation, unless Democrats decide to pursue one.
"This is a chapter of legislative life that in my view is over with. Let's move forward," Senjem said. "If Sen. Bakk wants to bring forth a complaint, or any member of his caucus, so be it. We have processes to deal with that."
Senjem added that there would be privacy issues and potential legal questions to also consider before discussing the Koch allegations in a public setting.