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Tomassoni job does not violate ethics according to disclosure board

ST. PAUL -- A state board took seven minutes Friday to decide state Sen. David Tomassoni did not violate conflict-of-interest laws when he became executive director of an Iron Range advocacy organization.

ST. PAUL -- A state board took seven minutes Friday to decide state Sen. David Tomassoni did not violate conflict-of-interest laws when he became executive director of an Iron Range advocacy organization.

Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board members had little to say about the Chisholm Democrat becoming executive director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools. Tomassoni had asked for the opinion when some people raised conflict of interest questions.

On a 4-0 vote, the board accepted a previously released draft opinion.

Jeff Sigurdson, the disclosure board's assistant director, said Tomassoni could face conflict-of-interest situations on individual votes, which could be resolved by the senator announcing that he would not participate in those votes.

Board member Deanna Wiener said that when she was in the Senate, senators occasionally would let their colleagues know that they would refrain from a vote due to a potential conflict.

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Tomassoni has said he could abstain from some votes due to his job.

The organization where Tomassoni works, widely known as RAMS, hired him with the agreement that he would not lobby the Legislature and a lobbyist would be hired by the group's board and report to the board, not Tomassoni. Also, the senator would take a leave of absence during the annual legislative session.

Tomassoni is paid $6,500 a month when the Legislature is not in session.

Five of the 11 purposes RAMS' bylaws list for its existence are related to the Legislature.

Disclosure board Executive Director Gary Goldsmith said that had a complaint been received about Tomassoni, the board's outcome would have been the same.

"Simply accepting a position can never result in a conflict," he said.

However, Republican senators still could ask the Senate ethics committee to look into the situation. Tomassoni also could ask the panel to rule whether he has a conflict of interest.

 

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