DFL leaders call for Sen. Dan Schoen's resignation after sexual harassment allegations
ST. PAUL — Minnesota state Sen. Dan Schoen, a Cottage Grove police officer, has been accused of sexually harassing multiple women involved in politics while working as a state lawmaker, according to a published report.
He has been taken off the streets as a Cottage Grove police officer for the foreseeable future amid sexual harassment allegations in his work at the Legislature.
Schoen — who has been a Cottage Grove police officer since 2001 — will be off-duty until Nov. 16, when he'll be assigned to administrative duties, the city announced Thursday, Nov. 9.
The sexual harassment allegations against Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, so far remain centered on his activities as a representative and senator, and not as a police officer.
Schoen grew up in Clara City, Minn., and attended MACCRAY High School. He went to Ridgewater College in Willmar and worked as a paramedic in Willmar before moving to the Twin Cities.
The allegations, reported by MinnPost on Wednesday evening, Nov. 8, include unwanted advances and grabbing a woman's buttocks.
The accusations led to swift calls for Schoen's resignation by two of his Democratic colleagues, including Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk.
Records obtained through an open public records request by Rivertowns Media Thursday showed no disciplinary action involving sexual harassment or similar charges during Shoen's employment as a police officer.
According to MinnPost, when Schoen, a resident of St. Paul Park and father of two children, was presented with the allegations in a meeting with MinnPost, he was aware of each incident.
MinnPost reported that in a subsequent statement, he said that the allegations are "either completely false or have been taken far out of context. It was never my intention to leave the impression I was making an inappropriate advance on anyone. I feel terrible that someone may have a different interpretation of an encounter, but that is the absolute truth. I also unequivocally deny that I ever made inappropriate contact with anyone."
His statement to MinnPost continued: "Despite this, if any of my actions or words have ever made another person feel uncomfortable or harassed, I deeply regret it and truly apologize. This is not who I am nor is it the person I would want anyone to feel I am."
MinnPost reported Schoen said he has no intentions of resigning. Efforts failed to reach Schoen for comment Wednesday evening. Schoen grew up in Clara City and attended MACCRAY High School in central Minnesota. He went to Ridgewater College in Willmar and worked as a paramedic in Willmar before moving to the Twin Cities.
Two of the women who leveled accusations against Schoen — Rep. Erin Maye Quade, a Democrat from Apple Valley, and former DFL legislative candidate Lindsey Port of Burnsville, went on the record with MinnPost.
Port told MinnPost that during her campaign in August 2015, Schoen twice commented on her body and came up from behind her and grabbed her buttocks at a Minneapolis event.
Maye Quade detailed to MinnPost a series of encounters and text messages that suggested Schoen was making unwanted advances to her that made her feel so uncomfortable that afterward, "I've avoided him like the plague."
Cottage Grove actions
"There's nothing in his file that says that anything like that has happened while he's been a police officer," Mayor Myron Bailey said. "We take everything very seriously."
City Administrator Charlene Stevens said the city plans to wait for a state investigation before deciding whether to impose disciplinary actions or dismissal. She said the city would pursue an internal affairs investigation after the state's investigation is completed.
"We would treat him like we would any other officer," Stevens said.
Schoen's personnel record with the police department shows three complaints — two of which the department found were unsubstantiated.
He received a four-day suspension without pay in 2005 for actions related to mishandling evidence and property, according to city records. The disciplinary action required further training on warrantless entry into homes and an apology letter from Schoen.
Cottage Grove employees — including all police officers — take sexual harassment training when they are first hired, Stevens said.
In 2016 they also set a policy to hold training every two years, and next year will be conducting training through the League of Minnesota Cities.
"Does the city condone sexual harassment? Absolutely not," Bailey said.
Calls for resignation
Bakk said he spoke with Schoen after being informed of the allegations, and wasn't satisfied.
"These victims' allegations are sobering and disturbing. Sen. Schoen's actions, even with additional context, were inappropriate and do not meet the standards for behavior of a state legislator," Bakk said in a statement.
"I have discussed these allegations with my leadership team and we are united in our call for Sen. Dan Schoen to apologize, step aside, and seek care to address these actions. The Senate DFL Caucus and I take seriously our responsibility to do what we can to support victims and end sexual harassment and assault."
Ken Martin, the state DFL Party's chairman, also called for Schoen's resignation.
"These disturbing allegations make clear that no workplace, including Minnesota's State Capitol, is immune to sexual harassment," Martin wrote in a Wednesday night statement. "The DFL stands strongly with the women who bravely shared their difficult stories, and all others who may have been harassed by Senator Dan Schoen. There is no room in our party for sexual harassment. The DFL calls for Senator Schoen's immediate resignation."
State Rep. Erin Murphy, a Democrat from St. Paul, learned of both women's stories from the women themselves. Murphy, a candidate for governor, issued the following statement Wednesday evening:
"I strongly condemn Senator Schoen's deplorable conduct. This abuse of power is harmful to women, to people, and contributes to a sick culture that we must change. It has no place in our society, and is certainly not representative of how a public official should behave. I call on Senator Schoen to resign and take responsibility for his actions."
Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan also called for Schoen to step down. "After today's explosive allegations of sexual harassment against Democrat State Senator Dan Schoen, I am insisting that he resign from his position as a Minnesota lawmaker," a statement read, in part.
Sexual harassment been a topic nationally after the high-profile allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Several statehouses across the country have seen women speak up recently about their treatment, including South Dakota, where a female lawmaker this past month accused a high-ranking House leader of making unwanted comments about her breasts to her — comments he later said were in jest. Other allegations have been reported in Arizona, Kentucky and Washington state.
Port and Maye Quade tweeted about going public Wednesday night.
"I'm sharing my story so we can stop having these stories. I'm proud to stand with these women to end pervasive sexual harassment," Maye Quade said on Twitter.
Port tweeted: "Today I'm talking about my own experience with harassment in politics. I'm standing with other women who are bravely sharing their stories, because this is not who we are. This cannot be the future. And I refuse to be silent."