North Dakota House expels lawmaker accused of inappropriate behavior

Politics

State Rep. Luke Simons, R-Dickinson, is shown in the North Dakota House chamber on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, n Bismarck, N.D. Lawyers for the North Dakota Legislature have documented allegations of sexual harassment and threats against them and others by Republican lawmaker Luke Simons, and have forwarded a file to legislative leaders for potential action that may lead to possible censure or expulsion. Legislative Council Director John Bjornson said he decided to release the documents Thursday, Feb. 24, 2021, after an incident Tuesday at the Capitol cafeteria where Simons accosted a pair of Democratic lawmakers in a profane outburst over a disagreement about wearing a mask. (Blake Nicholson/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

North Dakota lawmakers voted to expel Rep. Luke Simons (R-Dickinson) by a vote of 69 to 25 on Thursday.

This comes after allegations of inappropriate behavior toward female colleagues were made public by a legislative council last week.

It’s the first time in North Dakota history anything like this has ever happened.

Simons became the first North Dakota lawmaker to be expelled from the House with a two-thirds.

Female lawmakers spoke to a history of inappropriate behavior by Simons directed toward them, legislative council and even interns dating back to 2018.

“Representative Simons looked me up and down and asked, ‘So what are you wearing today?’ How humiliating, to have a guest visitor hear those words from one of my colleagues. I have not worn that dress since that day. Every time I go to pick out a dress, I’m reminded of the empty stomach feeling I was left with that day when those words left his mouth,” Rep. Emily O’Brien said.

Those allegations first became known last week when legislative council released 14 pages of documents of informal reports made against Simons.

“What has happened this past week is unacceptable behavior of the last four years is finally coming to light. Over his time in the office, Representative Simons has shown his continuous disregard for anyone but himself. Leadership has pulled him aside to address his behavior, to no results,” said Rep. Brandy Pyle.

But those supporting Simons say he deserves due process, and this isn’t it.

“I would like us to get back to discussing the rules because it’s been mentioned, we can’t just follow the rules we like. And when we follow the rules, we can’t shortcut the rules. And even if we know what the outcome is going to be, again, we cannot shortcut the rules,” said Rep. Ben Koppelman.

The resolution under consideration brought bipartisanly by both Majority and Minority leaders initially called for expulsion.

Over the course of the floor debate, amendments to reduce that punishment to censure, or investigation, failed.

Simons still maintains he did nothing wrong and said conversations were mischaracterized.

“A member of the House said that the record would show. Unfortunately, you’ll never know. You’ll never know. You never will know. That’s what you’re doing now. If we’re going to call each other liars, and I’m not calling anyone a liar, I would ask that maybe we have a hearing. Wouldn’t that be awesome,” Simons said.

Following the vote, Simons’s attorney commented that the now-expelled lawmaker could take further action, opposing the proceedings.

It’s unclear who will fill that spot in District 36, but currently, legislative procedure gives that power to the District’s chairman.

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