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Expelled North Dakota lawmaker denies harassment claims, weighs lawsuit to regain seat

Boughey said Simons still hasn't decided whether to file a lawsuit to the state Supreme Court in a push to regain his seat. Simons said the last few weeks since the allegations came out have taken a toll on his family but he doesn't go down without a fight.

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Former North Dakota Rep. Luke Simons, left, speaks at a press conference with attorney Lynn Boughey at Wingate hotel in Bismarck on Tuesday, March 9. Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service
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BISMARCK — Luke Simons said he's setting out to clear his name less than a week after being ousted from the North Dakota House of Representatives over multiple allegations of sexual harassment.

About 50 Simons supporters packed into a tiny meeting room at Bismarck's Wingate hotel on Tuesday, March 9, as the former lawmaker's attorney, Lynn Boughey, railed against a perceived "extreme" violation of due process in his new client's removal from office.

Boughey said Simons still hasn't decided whether to file a lawsuit to the state Supreme Court in a push to regain his seat. Simons said the last few weeks since the allegations came out have taken a toll on his family but he doesn't go down without a fight.

District 36 Republican Chairman John Enderle, who called Simons' expulsion "an atrocity," said Tuesday that appointing the former lawmaker's successor is "up to Luke." If Simons files a lawsuit, Enderle said the district committee would wait until it's sorted out to pick someone new.

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The Republican-dominated House voted 69-25 last week to expel Simons from the chamber, making him the first lawmaker in North Dakota history to be kicked out for bad behavior. A series of sexual harassment accusations against Simons surfaced last month, with multiple female colleagues and staffers saying the Dickinson Republican repeatedly made inappropriate comments and exhibited “creepy” behavior toward them over the last three years.

Simons said Tuesday the allegations are "100% lies" and that his accusers are motivated to attack him because of his controversial brand of ultra-conservatism. Simons did not offer any direct evidence that the harassment claims were driven by politics.

Legislative leaders have rejected due process arguments, saying Simons' case was not criminal and didn't warrant court-like procedure. House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, said Simons' misconduct would have resulted in a firing if he were in a different line of work.

Though Boughey was not permitted to speak on behalf of his client during the expulsion proceedings, Simons unsuccessfully appealed to his colleagues for a public hearing or investigation where the truth could be revealed.

A 10-page document that Boughey released Tuesday includes what Simons would have told investigators during a formal probe into the allegations of misconduct, his lawyer said.

Where Grand Forks Rep. Emily O'Brien accused Simons of repeatedly peppering her with inappropriate and misogynistic comments about her appearance and personal life, Simons dismissed their interactions as "innocuous small talk" in which he complimented her outfit and asked her about being away from home. O'Brien said she eventually moved her desk because of the alleged harassment she endured from Simons.

In one interaction, a legislative staffer claims Simons told her she could “lick and sniff” a brown stain on a paper he slid across her desk. Simons recalls apologizing to the staffer for the stain, which was "just chocolate ice cream, like one of those scratch and sniff stickers."

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Simons said he has recordings of his interactions with staffers and lawmakers, but when asked if he would release them to corroborate his account of the events, Boughey jumped in and said Simons would first have to consult with his lawyer.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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