Legislator calls on Rep. Ilhan Omar to pay back $2,500 in college speaking fees, a violation of House rules

July 30, 2018

State Rep. Steve Drazkowski called out fellow legislator Ilhan Omar on Monday for receiving $2,500 from college speaking events a violation of House rules since policymakers take action on the states public institutions.

I dont like corruption in government and neither do my constituents, Drazkowski said Monday.

Just a couple of months after taking office in 2017, Omar was paid $2,000 to speak at Normandale Community College that February and $500 to speak that April at Inver Hills Community College. On Monday, Omar said in a statement that the speaking engagements were scheduled before she was elected and that she didnt know she would need to apply the House rules to previously confirmed engagements.

She called it an oversight and said she would return the money as soon as possible to the institutions through scholarship funds.

Its the second violation in a week that Drazkowski has lobbed at Omar, who is one of three DFLers running for U.S. Rep. Keith Ellisons open seat in Congress.

Last week, Drazkowski filed a complaint with the states Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, accusing Omar of using campaign money to pay her divorce lawyers legal fees a violation of state law. Omar and her attorney said last week that the allegation was false and the $2,250 fee Drazkowski was questioning was for legal services for crisis management, not her 2017 divorce.

Omar, a first-term state lawmaker from Minneapolis, has quickly gained national media attention as the first Somali-American to serve in a state legislature and she received the DFL Party endorsement in June in the bid to fill Ellisons seat in Congress. She is a member of the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Policy and Finance Committee.

On Monday, in response to a reporters question about if hes trying to oust Omar, Drazkowski, a Republican from Mazeppa, said hes just pointing out violations of the Minnesota House rules, which say that members cant accept an honorarium for a service from an individual or organization that has a direct interest in the business of the House.

Drazkowski said he discovered the college fees after Omar filed her required Statement of Economic Interest on June 20 months after the filing deadline, resulting in a $1,100 fine and listed more than a dozen honorariums, including from the two community colleges in the Minnesota State colleges and universities system (formerly known as MnSCU). She also received $250 for travel expenses this year from Minnesota State University Mankato for speaking on a panel.

Since the form was filed after the Legislature adjourned in May, Drazkowski said that the House ethics committee couldnt take action.

Being a legislator is not supposed to be a transactional occupation and that just appears to be what we have here, he said before Omar released her statement later Monday, agreeing to repay the money.

In an e-mail to campus leaders on July 11, Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra said he had been notified that campuses had paid state legislators for engagements and instructed them to make sure that it didnt continue.

Kelly Smith 612-673-4141

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