Lawyer: Sen. Schoen to resign amid sex harassment claims

DFL Rep. Dan Schoen sponsored a bill requiring gun sale background checks.
DFL Rep. Dan Schoen spoke at the Capitol office building in St. Paul on March 10, 2016.
Brandt Williams | MPR News 2016

Updated 6 p.m. | Posted 4:22 p.m.

State Sen. Dan Schoen, who faces sexual harassment allegations, plans to resign from the Senate Wednesday.

His attorney, Paul Rogosheske, said Tuesday that "the reason he's resigning is he can't serve his district. Everyone has made up their mind. There's no way he can be effective. He doesn't want to be involved in this atmosphere where he can't get anything done."

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The accusations against Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, include allegations of suggestive text messages, unwanted physical contact and sharing of lewd pictures. He has denied them.

Despite his intention to resign his seat, Schoen continues to deny any wrongdoing.

Top state legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle have called for Schoen to step down.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said they would file an ethics complaint against Schoen if he didn't resign. The current makeup of the Senate at 34 Republicans and 33 Democrats will make the race to replace Schoen politically important.

The accusations against Schoen include sending suggestive text messages, unwanted physical contact and sharing of lewd pictures.

The allegations broke into public view after state Rep. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, told the online publication MinnPost that prior to winning election to the House she received unsolicited text messages from state Schoen that came off as a solicitation for an encounter at his home.

The run-in with Schoen was while she campaigned for a seat she later won.

Lindsey Port, who was a DFL House candidate, said Schoen made remarks about her rear end and even patted it at a party function.

After the story broke, the city of Cottage Grove, where Schoen works as a police officer, said Schoen would be placed on administrative duty until the allegations are investigated; officials will also review whether any city policies were violated.

Later, a Senate staff member came forward to say Schoen sent her a picture of male genitals during a Snapchat conversation they had.

Port on Tuesday thanked Maye Quade and other women who came forward with their allegations against Schoen. "It brings me no joy to see Sen. Schoen resign, but it does bring relief to see that we can hold people responsible," she said.

In a statement late Tuesday afternoon, Maye Quade said Schoen's resignation would not put the matter of sexual harassment to rest at the Capitol

"One senator's resignation does not change the culture," she said. "I want to change the culture."

Maye Quade has also gone public with accusations against state Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center. She recently released text messages in which Cornish commented on her body and said he also made remarks about her sexuality.

Cornish apologized for the text messages as "a poor attempt at humor with a colleague."

But an hour after Schoen's lawyer confirmed his client's resignation, Cornish released a statement saying he would leave the Legislature.

More serious allegations were made by a lobbyist who told MPR News earlier this month about frequent overtures Cornish made toward her and released multiple messages from him inviting a sexual relationship.

In response to her allegations, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, removed Cornish as chair of the Public Safety Committee and days later agreed to hire an outside firm to investigate his conduct.

Trouble for Cornish continued to mount last week when MPR News published a story detailing a pattern of the lawmaker's unwanted contact with staff, lobbyists and lawmakers.