Saturday, December 09, 2006

More troubles for Mark Olson

Blogging from the great white North, and it actually is white up here!

SC Times has a story of how the GOP has severed ties to Representative Mark Olson.

ST. PAUL — Rep. Mark Olson is heading back to the Minnesota Legislature next month, despite being suspended from the House Republican caucus.

The Big Lake Republican said he hasn't heard from House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, and doesn't understand a decision he announced Friday that fellow House Republicans had decided to cut ties to Olson, who faces domestic abuse charges.

But the suspension of his caucus membership won't affect his plans to continue representing House District 16B, which includes Becker, Big Lake, Clear Lake and Zimmerman, he said.

"I have a lot of support and I don't see any reason why this would keep me from being able to represent people," he said. "It just won't look good for a while."

Olson is due in court Tuesday in connection to his November arrest. According to a criminal complaint, Olson is accused of shoving his wife and leaving her with bruises.

The decision means Republicans won't supply Olson with staff, support or allow him to caucus with them. The office of House Speaker-elect Margaret Anderson Kelliher, a Democrat, will decide Olson's committee assignments, office and staffing.

Olson said he was waiting for instruction from Kelliher's office but would press on.

"Maybe it means I'm an independent now," he said. "I don't know. I've always been sort of independent."

Local reaction

St. Cloud-area Republican lawmakers on Friday stood behind Seifert's announcement.

Olson's public statements after his arrest on two counts of assault have compromised his ability to serve, said Rep. Dan Severson, R-Sauk Rapids.

"He's in the judicial process and we won't speak to that," Severson said.

"But given what he's already said publicly, we don't want to have this hanging over our caucus."

Olson should carefully consider resigning his seat, regardless of the outcome of his case, said Rep.-elect Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud.

"Given what's happened, based on police reports, he has some issues he and his family have to deal with, and he has to think about whether he can make that a priority while he's still trying to serve in the Legislature," he said.

Mounting pressure

State law says people convicted of felonies cannot serve in the Legislature, but lesser charges would not compel Olson's resignation.

The House has the power to expel members, but that step is usually reserved for extraordinary cases.

Olson wasn't at the closed-door caucus meeting nor did he have anyone there to represent him, Seifert said.

"Legislators are role models for the public and need to be held to high ethical standards," Seifert said. "It is getting close to the point of where he needs to acknowledge if this has happened or not, and not rationalize bad behavior if it has happened."

Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty called Friday for Olson to resign from the Legislature if he is convicted.

"If it turns out that he is found guilty or pleads guilty to the conduct alleged, it's just not appropriate for him to be serving in the Legislature," Pawlenty said.

The troubles for Mark Olson continue to grow...

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