A fierce legal battle begins between ex-GOP Chairman Carnahan, the party – Albert Lea Tribune

A fierce legal battle ensues between ex-GOP chairman Carnahan and the party

Published Saturday 3 December 2022 19:23

By Brian Bakst, Minnesota Public Radio News

Former Minnesota Republican Party leader Jennifer Carnahan sued the state party in connection with her ouster, claiming that her ability to get new jobs in politics was hampered by testimonies from former colleagues.

Carnahan’s lawsuit, filed Thursday in Hennepin County District Court, alleges she was unreasonably reduced in violation of a separation agreement she signed in August 2021. Carnahan resigned amid allegations of a hostile work environment and other internal issues. When she resigned, she received about $38,000.

The party immediately fired back with a counterclaim alleging that Carnahan’s actions had damaged the party’s reputation. The backlash also criticized Carnahan’s association with a key agent and donor, who faces a slew of federal indictments.

Carnahan declined comment when reached by phone. However, her attorney Matthew Schaap said the exit agreement had been breached.

“A number of people involved with the party and bound by the agreement made essentially negative comments on social media and in public, publicly denigrating Ms Carnahan and almost pretending the contract did not exist,” it said Schaap.

Since she resigned, several party officials have openly questioned Carnahan’s financial management, her leadership style and her association with a GOP donor facing federal charges of sex trafficking.

In a filing related to her lawsuit, Carnahan denies both, saying she had no knowledge of Anton Lazzaro’s alleged conduct and was not questioned by investigators.

Carnahan is seeking over $50,000 in damages, which is a standard amount listed in Minnesota civil lawsuits. 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 was dealing with multiple repercussions.

“When things are said in the press, particularly negative things about Ms. Carnahan, they affect her reputation, they affect her ability to find work and participate in politics,” he said in one Friday phone interview . “And so it had a significant impact on her reputation in the community.”

The legal battle began in September but has remained behind the scenes. There has been a back-and-forth between Carnahan’s side and people within the party who have filed countersuits over the past month.

The case became public when it was officially filed.

It was released just before a weekend meeting of Republicans in St. Cloud to select leaders and analyze the election.

A party official, Executive Director Michael Lonergan, responded to Carnahan’s lawsuit by saying that the party “suffered significant harm as a result of Carnahan’s mismanagement and proprietary trading.”

Lonergan added that while the party wishes to avoid costly litigation, “it will vigorously defend itself against these baseless claims and will pursue all available legal remedies.”

The case could drag on for months and create additional political headaches as both sides file paperwork ahead of a possible trial next year.

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