Fierce legal battle begins between former GOP chairman Carnahan, party
Published at 19:23 Saturday, December 3, 2022
By Brian Bakst, Minnesota Public Radio News
Former Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan is suing the state party over her ouster, claiming her ability to find new work in politics was damaged by comments made by former colleagues.
Carnahan’s lawsuit, filed Thursday in Hennepin County District Court, alleges she was improperly held in violation of a separation agreement she signed in August 2021. Carnahan resigned amid allegations of a hostile work environment and other internal problems. She was paid about $38,000 when she retired.
The party immediately fired back with a counter-filing that said Carnahan’s actions had damaged the party’s reputation. The backlash also criticized Carnahan’s connection to a major operative and donor who faces a series of federal charges.
Carnahan declined comment when reached by phone. But her lawyer, Matthew Schaap, said the severance agreement had been breached.
“Several people who were involved in the party and were bound by the agreement said essentially negative things on social media and in public and Ms. Carnahan publicly dismissed, almost acted as if the contract didn’t exist,” Schaap said.
Since she stepped down, several party officials have openly questioned Carnahan’s fiscal management, her leadership style and her connection to a GOP donor facing federal sex-trafficking charges.
In a filing related to her lawsuit, Carnahan disputes each, saying she had no knowledge of Anton Lazzaro’s alleged actions and was not interviewed by investigators.
Carnahan is seeking monetary damages in excess of $50,000, which is a standard amount listed in civil actions in Minnesota. She has kept a low profile since running unsuccessfully for her late husband Jim Hagedorn’s congressional seat in southern Minnesota this spring.
Schaap said Carnahan faced several repercussions.
“When things are said in the press, especially negative things about Ms. Carnahan, it impacts her reputation, it impacts her ability to get a job, to participate in politics,” he said Friday. said in a telephone interview. . “And so that had a significant impact on her reputation in the community.”
The legal proceedings began in September but remained behind the scenes. There was back-and-forth between Carnahan’s side and people within the party, who filed counterclaims last month.
The case became public when it was formally filed.
It opened just before a weekend gathering of Republicans in St. Cloud to select leaders and dissect the election.
A party official, executive director Michael Lonergan, responded to Carnahan’s lawsuit by saying the party had “suffered significant damage as a result of Carnahan’s mismanagement and self-dealing”.
Lonergan added that while the party prefers to avoid costly litigation, “it will vigorously defend itself against these meritless claims and pursue all available remedies.”
The case could linger for months and cause additional political headaches as both sides file paperwork in the run-up to a possible trial next year.