Update: Documents accuse North Dakota lawmaker of offensive behavior

BISMARCK, N.D. – Lawyers for the North Dakota Legislature have documented allegations of sexual harassment and threats against them and others by a Republican lawmaker and have forwarded a file to legislative leaders for potential action that may lead to possible censure or expulsion.

Redacted documents outlining an alleged pattern of sexually aggressive, lewd, and threatening behavior by Dickinson Rep. Luke Simons was released Thursday through an open records request.

Legislative Council Director John Bjornson said he decided to release the documents 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.

“That pushed it over the edge,” Bjornson said.

“Rep. Luke Simons yelled at me to STFU when I pointed out he was standing next to a ‘mask required’ sign and that he could do whatever he wanted because his taxes paid for this building, He later apologized,” Fargo Democratic Rep. Karla Rose Hanson wrote on Facebook.

Simons didn’t respond to a phone message from The Associated Press. He apologized for the incident on his Facebook page Wednesday and said it was contrary to his Christian values. He said he apologized to the lawmakers in person.

“As a Christian I do not believe in using harsh language, and It was wrong of me,” he wrote.

In a Facebook video Thursday morning, Simons said he has “been accused of being flirtatious all of my life,” and that “you’re guilty these days without a trial,” a reference to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose 2018 confirmation hearing was rocked by sexual assault allegations.

“The truth is, ladies, I could puke thinking about being with anybody besides my wife,” Simons said. “I think it’s literally disgusting. I have trained my brain to think that way. I treat women, I would hope, with respect. I was raised that way.”

He also said he is “extremely uncomfortable with talking to any woman alone,” and must have his wife “or somebody else” with him when meeting with other women.

“Today you’re a fool to talk alone with the opposite sex. You just are, because allegations can be made against you, and that’s just the way it is,” Simons said.

Simons, a barber and rancher, was first elected in 2017 and is a member of the loosely organized Bastiat Caucus, a far-right group that supports limited government and gun rights. The group claims more than two dozen legislative members, though it refuses to name them.

The Legislative Council is the nonpartisan research arm that includes accountants and attorneys who draft new laws and budget proposals for lawmakers and do research for them on various subjects.

Bjornson said female staff members have been told they don’t have to work with Simons.

The 14-page document includes allegations that Simons, who is married and has five children, had made “advances” toward female staffers and interns and that his behavior, one staff member wrote, was “really creepy.”

Simons allegedly commented on women’s appearance, from their eyelashes to their hairstyles. He also allegedly attempted to give one female staffer a shoulder massage, the documents said.

One staffer wrote that Simons had called a female staffer on a “work matter and proceeded to tell her a long story about shopping for thongs at Victoria’s Secret because that is what his wife likes to wear. He apparently ‘jokingly’ added that he wears thongs also. He told this story in the context that he was approached by mall security at a shopping center in Montana because he was carrying a weapon.”

Another female staff member said Simons slid one of his papers across her desk, “told me the stain on it was chocolate ice cream, and told me I could ‘lick and sniff it.’”

“At another point, “ the staffer wrote, “he told me ‘I don’t need laws because I follow the Bible and then said ‘it would be really bad if (he) was driving (his) car and ran over (my) son,’ whom he had just met. I was very disturbed by the comment because it was threatening and completely unrelated to anything we had discussed. I cannot imagine why he thought or mentioned it. Later, as he asked questions, he told me I was ‘seeing the inner workings of (his) mind.’”

The documents say House Majority Leader Chet Pollert was told of some of the incidents.

Pollert said Thursday that he had not had a chance to review the Legislative Council’s documents and could not immediately comment on them. He said they “could bring a different light” to Simons’ future in the Legislature.

Pollert said leaders have discussed discipline for Simons before over such incidents.

“It is possible,” Pollert said of a censure or expulsion. “But I don’t know that right now.”

Removing him from office would require support from two-thirds of the GOP-controlled House. Bjornson said there are no records of any lawmaker being expelled from the Legislature in at least a century.

The House broke for its midsession break on Wednesday and won’t return until March 3.

Simons on Tuesday testified on the House floor that he has “had several death attempts on myself since I became a state legislator.”

“How many guns are in this room right now illegally,” Simons said, while testifying in favor of a bill to relax the penalty for carrying a gun or dangerous weapon at a public gathering. “Has anybody stopped to wonder about it? How hard would it be to bring a gun in this Capitol?”

Categories: Local News, North Dakota News, Politics / Elections