Lawyer: Schoen denies sexual harassment claims in midst of resignation
A lawyer representing Sen. Dan Schoen in his final days in the Minnesota Legislature called swirling sexual harassment allegations "suspect" and said Schoen's accusers were "misrepresenting" their interactions.
Attorney Paul Rogosheske refuted the accusations at a news conference following the announcement of Schoen's Dec. 15 resignation.
Schoen did not attend the Nov. 22 news conference.
Accusations emerged three weeks ago in a MinnPost report in which multiple women described unwanted sexual attention from Schoen.
In the report, former DFL House candidate Lindsey Port said Schoen commented on her body and groped her during a 2015 Democratic National Committee event in Minneapolis.
Rogosheske said Schoen considered running for state auditor in September, but unnamed colleagues and staff warned the bid could lead to harassment allegations by Port.
Her business partner, Jon Tollefson, announced his run for state auditor in June.
Several witnesses corroborated Schoen's account of the night, Rogosheske said, but all of them chose to remain anonymous.
Rep. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, also recounted uncomfortable interactions with Schoen in which the Senator in the MinnPost.
Schoen, Maye Quade said, invited her for drinks. He also invited her to his house, telling her his children weren't home, Maye Quade said.
The same night, Maye Quade said, Schoen sent her a text message that appeared to be meant for another recipient saying that he "almost got her." She told MinnPost she avoided the senator after that.
Rogosheske, who provided a printout of Facebook message exchanges between Schoen and Maye Quade, said the comment was taken out of context.
While Rogosheske confirmed the message had been meant for someone else, he said the comment referred to Schoen's conversations with Maye Quade about Black Lives Matter following the Jamar Clark shooting.
Rogosheske also questioned Maye Quade's memory of her interactions.
"I don't think if I was Jesus Christ reincarnated I could convince Maye Quade that he didn't harass her," Rogosheske said.
In another instance, Schoen reportedly sent a picture of male genitals via Snapchat to DFL Senate staffer Ellen Anderson.
Rogosheske confirmed Schoen sent the image, but said the senator had done so mistakenly.
"Dan does this a lot: he punches the wrong button and it goes to the wrong people," Rogosheske said. "That Snapchat was meant for an intimate partner, it was a total mistake."
News of the sexual harassment accusations triggered a chorus of calls for resignation from Republicans and Democrats, including Gov. Mark Dayton and Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk.
"Resigning is the best decision for his constituents and the Senate," Bakk said in a Nov. 22 statement. "The DFL Leadership team takes seriously the ongoing safety of our staff, those who work around the capitol, and those who visit the capitol. … Sen. Schoen’s resignation is only the beginning of the process to curtail this behavior in politics."
Schoen wrote in his resignation letter that although he denies sexual harassment claims, the accusations would prevent him from fulfilling his legislative responsibilities.
"After consultation with my family, friends and constituents, I feel it has become necessary to resign my post as your Senator," Schoen wrote. "I do this with great regret but due to the onslaught of calls for my resignation I do not feel I can Effectively serve my constituents in this role any longer."
Schoen's resignation, however, offered little comfort to some of his alleged victims.
“One senator's resignation does not change the culture," Maye Quade said in a Nov. 21 statement. "I want to change the culture."
A Cottage Grove police officer, Schoen has been on administrative duties with the department since accusations surfaced.
Rogosheske said the accusations are unlikely to jeopardize Schoen’s position in law enforcement.
City Administrator Charlene Stevens said last week Schoen’s status as a police officer had not changed and he remained on administrative duty.
“We have received no reports of any misconduct against Schoen in his capacity as a police officer,” she said.