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Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, was at his desk on the House floor April 26, despite published reports earlier in the day that he had touched a 23-year-old woman inappropriately. He denies the allegations. (Staff photo: Kevin Featherly)
Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, was at his desk on the House floor April 26, despite published reports earlier in the day that he had touched a 23-year-old woman inappropriately. He denies the allegations. (Staff photo: Kevin Featherly)

Bar Buzz: Fredrikson firm to look into claims against Hamilton

The House has hired two Fredrikson & Byron Law Firm attorneys to investigate whether Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, has violated the chamber’s new policy against discrimination and harassment.

Hamilton has already been suspended as chair of the House Agriculture Finance Committee. The seven-term representative is accused of sexual assault.

Karen Schanfield and Pamela Abbate-Dattilo, both of Fredrikson & Byron, will investigation the matter, according to House Research Director Patrick McCormack, who issued a written statement Wednesday.

“To preserve the integrity of the investigation, my department will have no further comment,” McCormack’s statement said.

Hamilton voluntarily reported the accusations to the House human resources director after they were reported in local media. On April 26, House leaders instructed their nonpartisan HR department to launch the chamber’s new complaint process — which was approved just one day earlier.

The complainant was identified in media reports as Emily Schlecht, 23. Hamilton issued a written statement identifying her by name and denying the allegations. He expressed regret for the incident, which media reports indicate involved unwanted touching and an unwelcome embrace.

Schlecht told the Star Tribune that Hamilton did not touch “her intimate body parts” when she stayed at his St. Paul apartment, at his invitation, on April 13.

“As someone who has worked for years with at-risk men and women, including survivors of sexual assault, I deeply regret the effect my actions had on Ms. Schlecht,” Hamilton wrote.

Hamilton said he would cooperate with the investigation. Since the incident, he has continued to show up for work and cast votes on the House floor.

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