BISMARCK — The North Dakota House of Representatives is due to vote Thursday, March 4, on the expulsion of Rep. Luke Simons, who stands accused of making lewd and inappropriate comments to a handful of female legislative staffers and lawmakers.
House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, said the whole chamber will meet Thursday to deliberate and vote on a resolution to remove Simons from office. The measure would need the support of two-thirds of the 94-member House to pass.
Officials say there is no precedent for expelling a member of the Legislature, and the handling of Simons' case could set the bar for future disciplinary action against lawmakers.
Simons, his defenders and his critics will have a chance to present their cases on Thursday.
Pollert and other leaders called on Simons to resign last week after Legislative Council Director John Bjornson released a 14-page document describing multiple detailed accounts from Capitol staffers alleging Simons verbally or physically harassed them. Grand Forks Rep. Emily O'Brien later came forward, saying she moved her desk across the chamber to avoid Simons after he repeatedly made inappropriate comments about her appearance.
Simons denies all wrongdoing and says the allegations against him are politically motivated. The Dickinson Republican said he's owed a public hearing where he can respond to the allegations levied against him. Simons has also hired a lawyer, Lynn Boughey, who argues the lawmaker cannot be expelled without a full impeachment process that includes a trial in the Senate.
House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, said if expulsion fails, the chamber may consider a resolution to censure Simons, which could involve removal from committees. The censure resolution could pass with just a simple majority in the Republican-dominated chamber.
Boschee said the chamber likely wouldn't allow non-lawmakers to testify on any actions against Simons.
Bjornson told Forum News Service his agency hasn't looked into how Simons' seat would be filled if he were removed from office, but it's likely the local GOP district committee in Dickinson would appoint a successor.