BISMARCK — A friend of North Dakota Rep. Luke Simons is mounting an online fundraiser to pay for the Dickinson Republican's legal fees after allegations that the lawmaker harassed female colleagues and legislative staff surfaced last week.

District 38 GOP Chairman Jared Hendrix confirmed to Forum News Service that he started a Rally.org fundraiser to cover Simons' legal costs as he fights back against "nasty political attacks." Hendrix, a former campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, said hiring a lawyer has burdened Simons' family with an unexpected expense, and he wanted to help his friend.

A page for the fundraiser includes a message that Simons has retained Mandan attorney Lynn Boughey, who could not be reached for comment. Eighteen donors had committed $2,030 to the $15,000 goal as of Monday afternoon, March 1.

Attorney Lynn Boughey, right, speaks to the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board next to his client, TigerSwan Vice President Wesley Fricks, Tuesday, May 15, 2018 in Mandan. John Hageman / Forum News Service
Attorney Lynn Boughey, right, speaks to the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board next to his client, TigerSwan Vice President Wesley Fricks, Tuesday, May 15, 2018 in Mandan. John Hageman / Forum News Service

Simons, who denies harassing women at the Capitol, could not be reached for comment Monday, but he wrote on Facebook that he's grateful to his supporters and would "fight back as best I can."

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The lawmaker is accused of making lewd and inappropriate comments to a handful of female legislative staffers and lawmakers, including Grand Forks Rep. Emily O'Brien and Casselton Rep. Brandy Pyle. On one occasion in 2018, he allegedly gave an unsolicited shoulder rub to a member of the Legislative Council.

Detailed reports of Simons' alleged transgressions say multiple female staffers have requested they not work with him because of inappropriate remarks he had made in the past. O'Brien said she has taken steps to avoid Simons and stopped wearing a certain dress on which Simons had previously commented.

Rep. Luke Simons, R-Dickinson. Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press
Rep. Luke Simons, R-Dickinson. Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Leaders from both parties have called on Simons to resign over the allegations. House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, said in a statement last week that lawmakers may look to expel Simons from the chamber if he doesn't step down.

It's unclear whether Simons would be able to defend himself from expulsion using a lawyer.