South Dakota Senate condemns, reinstates suspended lawmaker – KGET 17

PIERRE, SD (AP) – The South Dakota Senate on Wednesday censured and reinstated a Republican senator who was suspended last week for allegedly harassing a legislative aide during an exchange about childhood vaccinations and breastfeeding.

The Republican-controlled Senate overwhelmingly approved an investigative committee report that found Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller harassed a staff member of the Legislative Research Council, which helps lawmakers draft legislation and conduct research.

The aide, who has not been publicly named, filed a complaint last week detailing how Frye-Mueller told the aide her child could die from vaccinations and suggested her husband could suck her breasts to get breast milk. Frye-Mueller allegedly suggested the assistant do it at night, pointed to her breasts, and then motioned to her husband, who was also in the room.

“He smiled and nodded,” the aide said in her complaint.

Frye-Mueller and her husband dismissed most of the aide’s complaints. She also sued Senate leadership in federal court. She claims her suspension, which was imposed without a hearing, violated her due process and free speech rights and her ability to represent her constituents.

“The Senate committee, in adopting its report, made a clear statement that we believe,” said aide to Republican Sen. David Wheeler. “We believe misconduct occurred and some type of discipline is appropriate.”

Only one senator voted against the adoption of the report and its discipline. Frye-Mueller, who is allied with a right-wing group of Republicans, will be returned to the Senate but will be barred from interacting with most Legislative Research Council staff.

Republican Sen. Tom Pischke, who cast the lone no vote, said he disagreed with almost everything the Senate did to discipline Frye-Mueller, deprived her of due process and tried to cast doubt on the aide’s credibility.

Frye-Mueller was allowed to return to the Senate Wednesday after the vote.

“I completely disagree with the conviction. The only reason I’m coming back is to be a voice for the voters of District 30,” she said.

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