Senate rebukes Sams;

The Minnesota Senate voted Monday afternoon to reprimand Sen. Dallas Sams for his involvement in a cover-up of a legal payment from the University.
All but one senator voted “yea” for a resolution to remove Sams, DFL-Staples, from his position as vice chairman of the Human Resources Finance committee; the resolution also forces Sams to issue an apology to the Senate, his constituents and the public.
The omnipresent din that filled the Senate floor during the day’s proceedings fell to a hush as Sams stood to apologize. “It is with the utmost sincerity that I apologize for the situation I put before you today,” Sams said as he addressed the Senate. “I have failed to meet my own standard of good conduct.”
The Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct released a report Friday that concluded that Sams had intentionally covered up a legal payment from the University for consulting work after he authored a bill that appropriated $1 million to the University.
While the payment was legal, the coverup was unethical, the report concluded.
He worked with Mike Martin, former dean of the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, who gave false and misleading testimony to the committee about the payment.
This is the second reprimand in the history of the Senate; the first was in 1994, when Sen. Sam Solon was implicated in a long-distance telephone scandal.
The reprimand is entered into the Senate journal and placed on Sams’ permanent record.
“His constituents should consider it,” Junge said.
“I ask for your forgiveness,” Sams said on the floor.
Sen. Ember Reichgott Junge, who chaired the ethics committee, told the Senate there was no evidence of a conflict of interest and the payment was legal.
“The University’s general counsel said he could have contracted straight out with public money,” said Junge, DFL-New Hope. Martin paid Sams out of private University of Minnesota Foundation money to avoid political scandal for Sams.
Sams cannot regain his position on the Human Resources Finance committee until the next election in November 2000.
But, Junge said, the Senate could re-evaluate that decision if senators feel Sams has served his punishment.
Sen. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, said this episode was emblematic of problems within the Senate. She said there should be a stronger code of ethics.
“I’m disappointed because it doesn’t go far enough to protect the integrity of the Senate,” Runbeck said. “There is a gray area about what constitutes conflict of interest.”