- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A team has been formed to review the Missouri House’s intern policy in an effort to address a recent scandal when the former speaker resigned after admitting to exchanging sexually suggestive texts with a Capitol intern, Republican Speaker Todd Richardson said Wednesday.

Richardson, of Poplar Bluff, said he’s asked a working group conduct a “robust review” of current policy. The legislative intern handbook details how to report sexual or other forms of harassment and how those complaints are expected to be investigated. Texting or other forms of association with employees and lawmakers is not addressed.

The review comes amid increased national scrutiny of Missouri Capitol internship programs. Former House Speaker John Diehl, a Republican from Town and Country, resigned the last day of session May 15 after apologizing for texting with a 19-year-old intern.

Richardson, who was elected by the House to replace Diehl, said strengthening the current intern policy would be one of his top priorities after session ended.

Democratic and Republican House members, the House clerk’s staff, legislative researchers and others are involved in the review, Richardson said. They have not yet met, but Richardson said he’s tasked them with comparing Missouri’s code of conduct with other states’ policies. He also asked the group to reach out to Missouri universities with internship programs at the Capitol for feedback, and Richardson said he’s spoken with officials from the University of Missouri and Missouri State University.

“It’s a priority to have a policy in place long before the universities start their selection process, which is going to start in the fall,” Richardson said, “so everybody has some confidence in the policy.”

Republican Rep. Kevin Engler of Farmington said he hopes to compile as part of the group recommended changes to present to GOP House members during a private meeting scheduled for the end of July.

Additions to the handbook might include communication and “interpersonal” guidelines, he said.

“The vast majority of interns had have had a great experience,” Engler said. The aim is to “make sure that continues.”


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