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Ethics panel rebukes St. Louis lawmaker accused of having sex with intern

Ethics panel rebukes St. Louis lawmaker accused of having sex with intern

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ExpectUsSTL protesters drop poster during House debate

“We're in a rush to do nothing,” said Rep. Wiley Price, D-St. Louis, speaking against the proposed crime legislation, on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, during debate in the Missouri House of Representatives at the Capitol in Jefferson City. The House passed five bills including repealing the residency rule for public safely employees in St. Louis, Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — A state lawmaker from St. Louis faces censure after an investigation into whether he had sex with a legislative intern earlier this year.

Rep. Wiley Price IV, who won his second, two-year term on Nov. 3, did not admit to having sex with the intern, but was found to have attempted to cover up the incident and interfered in the House Ethics Committee probe into his behavior.

In an eight-page report made public Wednesday, the 10-person committee recommended the full House strongly admonish the Democrat, whose district spans the west side of the city, including Forest Park and the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood.

That could include stripping Price of his committee assignments and not allowing him to meet with the Democratic caucus. He also will be barred from having an intern in the future, and the report calls for Price to repay $22,494 to cover the cost of the investigation.

Lawmakers who previously have been in similar circumstances have resigned their posts rather than serve under those conditions.

Price did not respond to a request for comment. An aide said he hadn’t seen the report.

The committee — made up of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats — unanimously concluded Price should face sanctions after a witness, who was his legislative assistant at the time, said Price threatened her if she reported his behavior.

“Where I come from, people die for doing s*** like this,” she said Price told her.

According to the report, the aide contacted the House Division of Administration on Jan. 27 to report Price had told her “he had sex with (the intern) the night before.”

The college-age intern did not testify before the committee. The report said Price committed perjury by denying he had an inappropriate relationship.

Price’s “conduct has compromised the ability of the House to provide a respectful, professional work environment,” the report said.

The panel also criticized Price’s attorney for leaving his phone in a hearing room in an attempt to record closed-door deliberations among the members.

“The phone was returned to counsel after the audio file was deleted from the device,” the report notes.

House leaders, including outgoing Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, and incoming Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, issued a joint statement commending the panel.

“The committee worked diligently using the process put in place under House Speaker Todd Richardson that was designed to prevent and resolve inappropriate behavior and improve the culture in the Capitol. We will pursue the recommendation for censure that was unanimously approved by the five Republicans and five Democrats who make up the committee,” the statement noted.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, offered no opinion on the allegations, saying it will be up to the full House to evaluate the evidence and determine the appropriate action.

“We expect that process to be conducted in a swift and fair manner when the Legislature reconvenes in January,” Quade said.

In addition to his legislative duties, Price, 36, is employed as a marketing director. He previously worked in management for UPS.

Price attended Cardinal Ritter College Prep and St. Louis Community College at Forest Park.

In 2015, legislative leaders pledged to clean up the culture at the Capitol by bolstering policies against sexual harassment and those regarding interns, as well as pushing ethics reform in the wake of intern-related scandals that led two lawmakers to resign.

Nationwide, more than 100 state legislators have been publicly accused of sexual harassment or misconduct since the start of 2017, according to an Associated Press tally.

The ethics committee already is poised to launch an investigation into a newly elected lawmaker when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

Republican Rick Roeber of Lee’s Summit was accused of physical and sexual abuse by his adult children in the weeks before the Nov. 3 election.

For now, he won’t be allowed to join the House Republican caucus while the panel conducts its inquiry.

Last year, Democratic Rep. DaRon McGee, of Kansas City, resigned after an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint found he had engaged in “ethical misconduct” by sending flirtatious text messages and repeatedly pursuing a relationship with a legislative employee whom he supervised.

The House Ethics Committee last year also found that Republican state Rep. Rocky Miller, of Lake Ozark, had engaged in “unbecoming” conduct by creating a false rumor that another lawmaker was having an affair with a House employee. An outside investigation concluded that Miller’s actions weren’t severe enough to qualify as sexual harassment under federal or state law but may have violated the House’s sexual harassment policy. The ethics panel did not recommend any action against Miller.

Editor's note: a previous version of this story misstated the intern's post, according to the report.

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