Updated 1:25 p.m. | Posted 1:11 p.m.
A DFL state lawmaker is defending his decision to take a job with an Iron Range organization that lobbies the Minnesota Legislature.
Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said today he’s convinced that his position as executive director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools is legal and will not pose a conflict-of-interest.
Tomassoni said his duties will be administrative, not lobbying, and he’ll take a $45,000 annual salary only during the months when the Legislature is not in session. He compared his situation to farmers, lawyers or teachers who serve in the Legislature and vote on issues affecting their professions.
“The potential for a conflict in a particular vote could exist, and that’s the case with every single legislator here,” Tomassoni said. “So, every now and then I may have to recuse myself from a vote, which is also consistent with every other legislator here.”
Tomassoni is comfortable with his decision, but Senate Republican leaders are not. They’ve already threatened to file an ethics complaint against Tomassoni if he follows through with the job and remains in office.
Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said it’s unacceptable to do both.
“I think he has to resign from either his Senate seat or resign from this position. I don’t think he can do both at the same time,” Hann said. “I don’t think that’s proper. I don’t think it’s ever been done. We shouldn’t allow it. I think it raises questions in the public’s mind about who we’re working for.”
Two Republicans in the Minnesota House came to Tomassoni’s defense.
Reps. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, and Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, said part-time legislators have the right to hold jobs that do not involve lobbying or do not pose conflicts.
“In all our interactions with Sen. Tomassoni, he has upheld the highest standards of ethics and integrity,” Garofalo and Hamilton said in a statement.” We disagree with those who have been critical of the Senator’s new employment.”
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said in a statement that Tomassoni and his private counsel have requested an advisory opinion from the Campaign Finance Board.
“The Campaign Finance Board is the institution intended to resolve and advise on potential conflicts of interest concerning public officials, when they return their advisory opinion, Sen. Tomassoni will have clear direction,” Bakk said.