Wiley Price IV should resign, even though he insists he won’t. The state representative from St. Louis faces censure after an investigation determined not only that he likely had sex with his legislative intern in violation of House rules and common sense, but he also perjured himself and threatened retaliation against the woman who reported his conduct. These actions deserve not just formal censure from his peers but constitute a forfeiture of his right to represent the people of his district.
A report by the House Ethics Committee lays out the facts plainly. In January, Price’s assistant reported that the lawmaker told her he had had sex with his college-age intern. As the investigation into the matter began, Price threatened the aide for reporting the matter, as she was required to do. The aide quoted him as saying: “Where I come from, people die for doing [expletive] like this.”
The report says Price then engaged in a plot to obstruct the investigation, first by coercing the intern to delete all text messages between the two and deny all requests to produce her phone records. Price also refused to produce his own phone records, insisting several times under oath that he never called or texted the intern. Only after being faced with records, obtained by subpoena from his cell phone provider showing calls to the intern at 12:40 A.M. on the night in question, did Price admit to calling her. Price explained that the call was to see if the intern had gotten home safely.
The Ethics Committee, made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, saw through Price’s flimsy explanations and unanimously voted to release the damning and embarrassing report along with recommendations for harsh penalties — but only after allowing Price the opportunity to resign first, which he failed to do.
In addition to formal censure, the committee also recommended that Price, reelected on Nov. 3, be forced to pay $22,494 to cover the cost to taxpayers for the investigation; that he not be allowed to serve on any committee or be allowed to meet with the Democratic caucus; and that he not be allowed any more interns.
Price’s “conduct has compromised the ability of the House to provide a respectful, professional work environment,” the report stated.
In other words, it’s really time for him to go.
Missouri government has a long history of inappropriate sexual conduct by politicians, all the way up to and including former Gov. Eric Greitens. House leaders should move swiftly when they return in January to send a clear message that such behavior cannot be tolerated. But before that, Price should own up to his behavior and resign immediately. Because it’s clear he can no longer be effective for the people of his district, nor does he deserve the chance.