North Dakota House expels representative accused of sexual misconduct

BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota House of Representatives on Thursday expelled a lawmaker accused of threatening and sexually harassing women at the Capitol.

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Rep. Luke Simons, R-Dickinson, became the first lawmaker in state history to be expelled by the legislative body, The Bismarck Tribune reported. Allegations made by female legislative staff, interns and fellow representatives led to the expulsion.

The House voted 69-25 to remove Simons, 43, from office after a four-hour debate, the Grand Forks Herald reported. A two-thirds majority was required.

The vote came with strong support from Simons’ own party, which holds a supermajority in the state’s lower chamber.

Majority Leader Chet Pollert said Simons had been given “multiple chances to avoid being in this situation.”

“There is only one way to make this behavior stop and that is to expel Rep. Simons from this House,” Pollert said.

House Republican leaders had called on Simons to resign last week after a 14-page file from the Legislative Council detailedthe women’s uncomfortable encounters with him was made public. Simons, a barber and rancher, has denied any misconduct and retained an attorney to fight the allegations, the Tribune reported.

Legislative Council Director John Bjornson released the file in response to open records requests after an obscene outburst by Simons in the Capitol cafeteria last week toward two House Democrats over wearing a face mask, the Tribune reported. Simons later apologized.

Simons blamed accusers for “twisting my words,” adding that he was not being afforded due process.

“I could make any accusation against any of you,” Simons said before the vote. “Under this circumstance we are under, you’re guilty.”

Rep. Emily O’Brien, R-Grand Forks, who has accused Simons of repeatedly harassing her, said Simons’ behavior has no place in the House chamber.

“One time or 100 times, our tolerance is zero,” O’Brien told the House.

O’Brien said she switched desks to avoid Simons, The Associated Press reported.

“Prior to coming forward, I struggled with whether this was something I wanted to relive,” O’Brien said before the vote. “It is hard to rehash the unwarranted, disturbing and uncomfortable experiences. I think, ‘Shame on you, Emily O’Brien, for not coming forward and being a voice for others.’”

In 1913, a resolution was passed demanding a representative apologize for insulting John Fraine, the Speaker of the House, on penalty of potential expulsion, the Tribune reported. The representative apologized.

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