Friday, March 24, 2006

Sen. Dean Johnson Ethics hearing today

Posted by Craig Westover | 7:21 AM |  

From today's Pioneer Press --

Four state senators — two Republicans and two Democrats — today will consider whether Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson violated Senate ethical standards in his Jan. 19 statements about a gay marriage amendment and his subsequent attempts to explain the statements.

The trial-like hearing by the Special Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct will begin at 8:30 a.m. in Room 318 of the Capitol.

Johnson, DFL-Willmar, will be represented in the hearing by attorney Ellen Sampson. The case against him will be presented by two Republican senators, Mike McGinn of Eagan and Claire Robling of Jordan. The hearing agenda calls for Johnson to have an opportunity to testify and for McGinn or Robling then to cross-examine him.

"One of the things we're going to ask Sen. Johnson is: 'Who'd you talk to, when did you talk to them and what did they tell you?' " McGinn said Thursday.

In a meeting with clergy in Willmar that was tape-recorded without his knowledge, Johnson said three members of the Supreme Court assured him the court would not strike down a 1997 law banning gay marriage. Since the tape recording became public last week, Johnson has said he "embellished" a brief conversation with a single justice and received no assurance about how the court would rule.

For Johnson to be found in violation of the Senate's ethical standards, three of four subcommittee members must agree. The four members are: Senate President Jim Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, Dennis Frederickson, R-New Ulm; Tom Neuville, R-Northfield; and Wes Skoglund, DFL-Minneapolis.