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Dem lawmaker's office rehired aide after dismissing him over sexual harassment allegations: report

Dem lawmaker's office rehired aide after dismissing him over sexual harassment allegations: report
© Greg Nash

Rep. Rick NolanRichard (Rick) Michael NolanMinnesota Rep. Pete Stauber glides to victory in GOP primary Hold off on anti-mining hysteria until the facts are in Minnesota New Members 2019 MORE's (D-Minn.) office in 2016 hired a former legislative aide after firing him a year earlier over allegations that he sexually harassed several women working for the congressman's office, according to a MinnPost report

MinnPost reported it spoke to eight former Nolan employees, writing that three of them had specific harassment allegations against the aide, Jim Swiderski. The other five corroborated details about the aide and provided information about the work environment in the congressman’s office and campaign, according to the newspaper.

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The newspaper reported that in the summer of 2015, Nolan and his two most senior aides allowed Swiderski to resign his post rather than make him face formal disciplinary consequences, citing these former staffers. But the legislative aide was then hired by Nolan's office to do work for the congressman’s 2016 reelection campaign, MinnPost reported.

Swiderski was only let go after a group of Nolan aides put pressure on the congressman to remove him, according to MinnPost.

The newspaper also reported that Jodie Torkelson, Nolan's chief of staff, claimed responsibility for all personnel decisions in Nolan’s federal office. Swiderski has denied the allegations, according to MinnPost. 

Meanwhile, Nolan told MinnPost in a statement he retained the “separated employee” as a “vendor” for his 2016 campaign and emphasized that Swiderski worked remotely.

Meanwhile, Nolan said in a statement shared with The Hill that he retained the “separated employee” as a “vendor” for his 2016 campaign and emphasized that Swiderski worked remotely.

He said Swiderski was removed when a volunteer complained about his hiring. 

"An employee of the Congressional office who had made one of the harassment complaints went on to volunteer for the campaign committee," Nolan said. "When she became aware of the hire of the vendor to undertake campaign research, she issued a complaint. There were no new allegations."

"At that time, the campaign manager brought the matter to my attention and the vendor - then an independent contractor - was promptly separated from the campaign committee," Nolan continued. 

“In hindsight, the vendor should not have been retained by the campaign committee," Nolan added.

The eight former employees who spoke to MinnPost said they did so out of frustration with the way Nolan's office handled Swiderski's firing.

"I was just like, 'What the f-ck?'" one woman who accused Swiderski of inappropriate conduct told MinnPost. "How do you bring him back? I still don’t quite understand how [Nolan] thought that was ok." 

"Women must be encouraged to speak their truth and must always be listened to with respect," Nolan said the a statement to The Hill. "I have zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Sexual harassment is not condoned in my Congressional office or in my campaign committee." 

While Swiderski's work was mainly remote, he began appearing at various campaign events, according to the MinnPost report.

The accusations against Swiderski at the time ranged from "creepy comments" to groping and harassing female interns, the newspaper reported. 

Another woman said Swiderski made continual references to her appearance, saying in messages that it was a "liability" to be "young and pretty" like her.

Updated: 6:08 p.m.