Senate to hire investigator to review DFL’s handling of sexual harassment allegations

Senate Secretary Cal Ludeman announced that he will "begin the process of hiring an outside investigator" to handle a review of sexual harassment allegations made by a former DFL staffer.

Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent speaks with reporters on the Senate floor. (A.J. Olmscheid/Minnesota Senate)

Senate Republican leaders recently expressed their support for an independent investigation into the DFL’s handling of sexual harassment allegations.

Former DFL staffer Cynthia Callais recently came forward with claims of sexual harassment from DFL Sen. Jason Isaacson’s brother, resulting in Sen. Melisa Franzen resigning from her position as assistant minority leader. Franzen said DFL Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent was aware of the allegations and did nothing to investigate.

Several senators requested an independent investigation into whether Senate policy was followed in Callais’s case.

Now, Senate Secretary Cal Ludeman announced that he will “begin the process of hiring an outside investigator” to handle the case.

Several GOP leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, expressed their support for conducting an investigation.

GOP Sens. Roger Chamberlain, Zach Duckworth, Karin Housley, John Jasinski, Mark Johnson, Jeremy Miller, and Bill Weber signed on with Gazelka to say they support looking into “whether individuals in power took responsible actions to stop harassment” and whether Senate policy needs to change.

“The Minnesota Senate Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy was thoroughly researched and developed by both Republican and Democrat senators and staff,” said a statement from the group of GOP senators, who say they will work to update the policy if an investigation shows it is needed.

“The claims made by a former staffer were difficult and heartbreaking to learn about,” the group said.

Callais accused Clay Schwartzwalter, the half-brother of Isaacson and a former employee of Kent, of making “repeated unwanted advances” during her time as a legislative aide to Isaacson.

Callais first announced her allegations in a July 1 Twitter thread, in which she stated that when she came forward to the chief of staff, she was told to either leave her job or “transfer to another office.”

Schwartzwalter was forced to resign from his campaign manager position, but the allegations were never investigated in the Senate, according to a report from the Minnesota Reformer.