Former Minnesota GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan filed a lawsuit against the party this week, alleging it violated a severance agreement by disparaging her in public.
Carnahan resigned the chairmanship in August 2021 after a donor, Anton Lazzaro, was arrested on federal sex trafficking charges. Carnahan was accused of creating a toxic work environment and mishandling reports of sexual harassment during the fallout.
She vehemently denied those allegations in a lawsuit filed Thursday, claiming a group of senior party officials “used this unrelated donor controversy and ensuing media frenzy to falsely suggest Ms. Carnahan was involved or had knowledge of the criminal activity.”
“The group also repeated other false claims about Ms. Carnahan — including that she failed to investigate reports of sexual harassment within the MN GOP — in an effort to oust Carnahan after the 2021 election,” the lawsuit says.
Because of this “onslaught of false claims against her,” Carnahan stepped down from her role and entered into a separation agreement with the party. As a condition of this agreement, the party and its officials were required to refrain from disparaging Carnahan “in any respect,” according to the lawsuit.
“Shortly after entering into the Agreement, the MN GOP, and some of its management employees, Officers, and Executive Board Members began to disparage Ms. Carnahan, breaching the non-disparagement provision of the Agreement,” the lawsuit says.
“For example, Executive Board members on the Executive Committee posted on social media, highlighting Carnahan’s departure, celebrating her ouster, and suggesting the MN GOP was better off without her,” it continues, listing several additional examples.
Carnahan claims this has prevented her from finding new work opportunities and caused her emotional distress. She is seeking damages of at least $50,000.
According to MPR, the Minnesota GOP filed a counter lawsuit in response to Carnahan’s complaint. In it, the Minnesota GOP denies “each and every allegation” made by Carnahan and accuses her of “grossly mismanaging” the party.
The counterclaim doesn’t mince words, stating:
“Rather than seeking to carefully advance the interest of this vital institution, Carnahan recklessly pursued her own interests. Throughout her tenure as RPM Chair, Carnahan mismanaged the party to advance her own personal, political, and financial interests, as well as the interests of her friends. When her close personal relationship with Tony Lazzaro brought disrepute to the RPM following his arrest on federal charges relating to sex trafficking of minors, numerous other concerns with her mismanagement of the party came to light, including her penchant for using party resources to purchase the silence of former party staffers through non-disclosure agreements.
Even after it was clear she would be removed as RPM’s Chair, Carnahan continued to abuse her position of trust and responsibility for her own personal benefit. As her final act as RPM Chair, Carnahan voted to directly advance her own personal interests, casting the deciding vote as a member of the Executive Committee to award herself a severance payment of $38,500. Carnahan then resigned her position as Chair.”
The suit also accuses Carnahan of civil theft for keeping a smartphone and computer that are owned by the party and contain proprietary data.
Like Carnahan, the GOP is seeking monetary damages.
The Minnesota GOP State Central Committee was scheduled to meet Saturday morning in St. Cloud to elect party officers. Current Chair David Hann is running for reelection unopposed after multiple opponents dropped out.