A Republican member of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) is accusing the panel’s DFL co-chair of violating open meeting laws.
Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, complained during a LCCMR meeting Tuesday that Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, had hosted a closed-door meeting in his office that morning with other members and staff.
McNamara said Persell’s meeting with Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, and citizen member Nancy Gibson constituted a quorum of the LCCMR executive committee.
He said there was no public notice given of the meeting and no Republicans were invited.
“I want folks to know that there was an illegal meeting,” McNamara said. “The public should know that, absolutely. It’s wrong. You should not be doing those kind of things, an unfortunately it was partisan too.”
In a letter to LCCR members, McNamara outlined his concerns about the private meeting. He said he wanted to give Persell an opportunity to explain before taking further action. House and Senate rules committees could be asked to take up complaints related to open meeting violations.
Persell said the earlier discussion was about how the day’s longer meeting would proceed.
He rejected McNamara’s characterization that it was an “illegal” meeting.
“I think that the implication here is that projects were somehow discussed and arrived at without public acknowledgement, and that was just not the case,” Persell said.
Sen. Tomassoni also tried to downplay the nature of the meeting.
“There were no secrets,” Tomassoni said. “There was nothing done in the office that wasn’t discussed here when we came out.”
The 17-member LCCMR is responsible for making funding recommendations to the Legislature for special environment and natural resource projects.
Persell suggested that McNamara was playing partisan politics because a political tracker was in the room videotaping the exchange. The Minnesota Jobs Coalition, an organization that helps elect Republicans, confirmed that it was their camera.
The House DFL Caucus fired back, defending Persell and dismissing McNamara’s allegations as a faulty reading of the open meeting law.
They point out that under Minnesota Statute 3.055 a meeting would only occur if “a quorum is present and action is taken regarding a matter within the jurisdiction of the body.”