Legislative leaders move to expel North Dakota House member

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Republican and Democratic legislative leaders were finalizing a resolution Wednesday to expel a North Dakota House member accused of threatening and sexually harassing women at the state Capitol.

House Majority Leader Chet Pollert told The Associated Press that the resolution to expel GOP Rep. Luke Simons will be introduced on the House floor Thursday. Simons, who has denied wrongdoing and refused Republican leaders’ calls for him to resign, is accused of a pattern of sexually aggressive, lewd, and threatening behavior, dating back to shortly after he took office in 2017. Republican Rep. Emily O’Brien issued a statement last week saying that his harassment was so pervasive that she switched desks to get away from him.

The GOP-controlled Legislature reconvened Wednesday after its midsession break known as crossover. Pollert and Democratic House Minority Leader Josh Boschee said they worked together over the recess to craft the expulsion resolution.

Legislative officials said there is no record of any lawmaker being expelled since statehood. Pollert said lawmakers on Wednesday will discuss the process outlining the potential removal of Simons.

The resolution could be debated by a yet-to-be formed committee, an existing committee, or by the entire House, the leaders said.

Pollert and Boschee said they preferred the latter.

“Rep. Simons will have his day and will be able to defend his actions,” Pollert said.

A 14-page document compiled by the nonpartisan Legislative Council includes allegations that Simons made “advances” toward female staffers and interns, commented on their appearances and tried to give one staffer an unsolicited shoulder massage. One staffer described his behavior as “really creepy.”

Simons, 43, said in a statement issued late Tuesday that the allegations “have been totally misconstrued and taken out of context.”

“If the Legislature decides to inquire into any of my conduct or any of the allegations made by the director of the Legislative Council, then I look forward to a full and complete public hearing in which witnesses are heard, the true facts are determined, and where I am provided all of my due process rights and afforded the opportunity to require the attendance of witnesses, if necessary by subpoena,” Simons’ statement said.

Simons, a barber and rancher, is a member of the loosely organized Bastiat Caucus, a far-right group that supports limited government and gun rights. Simons has insisted on social media that he’s being targeted for his politics.

Simons’ attorney, Lynn Boughey, said he believes the House cannot expel Simons, and beyond censure, can only impeach him, which would require a Senate trial.

Legislative leaders and their lawyers note the North Dakota Constitution says either chamber can expel a member with two-thirds approval. That would mean 63 members of the House would need to approve. Republicans hold an 80-14 advantage in the chamber.

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