Politics and Government

Senate ethics panel defers action on complaint against DFL Sen. Nicole Mitchell

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Sen. Nicole Mitchell, DFL-Woodbury, sits through a Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct meeting on Wednesday.
Dana Ferguson | MPR News

A Minnesota Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct opted to postpone a hearing Wednesday intended to delve into a complaint against DFL Sen. Nicole Mitchell.

Mitchell was supposed to have a court hearing in her criminal case this week but a judge granted a motion to postpone until next month since Mitchell’s attorney had a scheduling conflict. She is scheduled for an omnibus hearing on July 1.

Without much new information on which to base their decisions, the panel voted unanimously to hold off on assessing the case again until July 25. Though members left the option open to come back sooner.

Mitchell, a freshman senator from Woodbury, was arrested at her stepmother’s Detroit Lakes home in April and charged with burglary. She said she was trying to retrieve her late father’s ashes and other items but her stepmother wouldn’t speak to her. Her stepmother told police that she’d already given Mitchell some of the ashes and had concerns about her safety during the incident.

Committee Chair Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, said it makes sense to hold off until the committee has additional information to consider.

“Anything you ask us now is speculation, even with the defense attorney, lots of things can happen between now and then,” Champion said.

a group of people at a meeting
The Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct met Wednesday and delayed action on a complaint against DFL Sen. Nicole Mitchell.
Dana Ferguson | MPR News

Republicans on the panel said members should consider issuing a subpoena to obtain police-worn body camera footage of Mitchell’s arrest. And they pressed for an option to return earlier than July 25 if significant developments in the case come forward.

“There definitely could be information that is warranting our attention and work in this committee,” said Sen. Andrew Mathews, R-Princeton.

“We’re not here to focus on and determine guilt or innocence of those criminal charges. We’re here to discuss whether there’s probable cause for an ethical violation under our Senate rules,” he continued. “And that definitely could have actionable items by July 25.” 

Mitchell’s lawyer Bruce Ringstrom, Jr. urged the panel to wait longer for the case to resolve.

“This case will not be substantially advanced to the point that there would be new information (by July 25),” Ringstrom Jr. said. “Final judgment in this case, whatever that may be, is probably several months away.”

Republicans on the panel continued to urge Mitchell to resign her seat, given the charge against her. In recent weeks, Gov. Tim Walz, Democratic Party leaders and some individual DFL senators have also called on Mitchell to resign. Mitchell has said through her attorney that she won’t step down.

Mitchell could enter a plea during her court hearing early next month.