- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 24, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A South Dakota legislative panel ended an investigation Tuesday into the conduct of a state representative who resigned after admitting to sexual contact with two interns.

But, the House Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion voted unanimously that sexual contact between a legislator and an intern is a violation of the Legislature’s joint rules. The panel met a day after the resignation of 26-year-old former Republican Rep. Mathew Wollmann.

“It certainly established that if you engage in any type of sexual contact with any legislative intern or page, that’s a violation of the rules,” said Republican Rep. Timothy Johns, chairman of the committee. “That’s the bottom line.”

In South Dakota, legislative interns are college students, some 21 or older. Legislative rules prohibit sexual harassment and call on lawmakers to maintain “the highest of moral and ethical standards.”

Wollmann said last week that both interns were over age 21 and that the contact during the 2015 and 2016 sessions was consensual. Had he remained, lawmakers could have decided to expel, censure, discipline or exonerate Wollmann.

The panel had a letter sent to 2015 and 2016 legislative interns asking if they wished to make a complaint about Wollmann. Rep. Mike Stevens, a member of the panel, said the committee didn’t receive any such complaints. They also pursued video from KSFY-TV of a former legislative intern that may contain allegations about Wollmann’s conduct, but the station declined to provide it, Johns said.

Wollmann’s public admission came shortly after a legislative committee voted down a new rule that would have added language saying, “No legislator or legislative employee may have sexual contact with any legislative intern or page.”

Republican Sen. Stace Nelson proposed the rule change in the committee and unsuccessfully pushed for similar language on the Senate floor. He said he’s putting forward a “more aggressive” proposal that would require mandatory reporting to ensure that such conduct doesn’t go unreported again.

Wollmann didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message requesting comment from The Associated Press. Wollmann, of Madison, was first elected to the House in 2014.

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