A North Dakota state representative is facing growing calls to step down over allegations he’s repeatedly sexually harassed staff members and interns.
Now, one of his Republican colleagues has come forward, revealing she was forced to move her seat on the House chamber floor to escape his harassment.
In a Saturday statement, Rep. Emily O’Brien (R-Grand Forks) said the inappropriate behavior by Rep. Luke Simons (R-Dickinson) became so bad that her colleagues had to help her relocate to a desk “further away from him.”
The move was made “under the pretense that my pregnancy required closer proximity to a restroom rather than addressing his harassing behavior,” she explained.
“Mine is just one of many instances that were handled by avoiding the real issue. If you have endured similar harassment, now is the time to speak up, and now is the time to demand action.”
O’Brien is among several people who have accused Simons of inappropriate behavior dating back to 2017. A 14-page file released by the Legislative Council—the research arm of the state legislature—outlined the many allegations against the outspoken Republican, including testimony from one council employee who described Simons as “really creepy.” He was also accused by staff members and interns of repeatedly making sexual advances towards them, talking about shopping for thongs with women, and even giving one employee a shoulder massage.
In an interview with the Grand Forks Herald, O’Brien said Simons sat behind her while the House was in session and would comment on her appearance almost daily.
“Every couple of days he’d walk by and give me the up-down,” she said, adding that Simons would say that she must be a “good secretary for her boss. He would say, ‘You’re lucky your boss lets you come out here to work.’”
O’Brien, who was first elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives in 2016, added that Simons would ask her who was doing the dishes and laundry at her home while she was at work since those chores were her responsibility. To avoid the unwanted attention, she started pretending to be on the phone when he would walk by and stopped wearing at least one dress. Ultimately, she decided she had to change seats.
The Legislative Council report on other allegations against Simons was released last week after he cursed out two Democratic lawmakers who asked him to wear a face mask. According to the Grand Forks Herald, Simons told Rep. Karla Rose Hanson (D-Fargo) to “fuck off” and insisted “you’re not my fucking mother” after she asked him to wear a face-covering amid the coronavirus pandemic. Simons has since apologized for the outburst, insisting that “as a Christian, I don’t condone that kind of language.”
State House leaders on Friday officially called for his resignation, with House Majority Leader Chet Pollert saying in a statement that “Simons’ subsequent actions show a pattern of behavior that we do not tolerate, and that violates our rules against workplace harassment.”
“While we have previously worked with various individuals to resolve issues with Representative Simons’ inappropriate behavior, it is clear further action must be taken,” Pollert said, calling on the lawmaker to step down. “Should he refuse, the legislature will weigh all the information and options, including expulsion, and make a determination when we reconvene after crossover. We want to make clear that this behavior will not be accepted at the Legislature.”
While Simons did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, he told the Bismarck Tribune that “they’re trying to frame me” and had no comment about the calls for his resignation.
Simons was elected in 2017 and is currently a member of the controversial Bastiat Caucus in the state’s House. The lawmaker has repeatedly insisted the accusations against him are a political plot targeting his conservative politics.
“What it has turned into is an agenda against my character. These are accusations that have come to me that simply just aren’t true. They’ve taken my words and distorted them into very, very sick concepts that just aren’t true,” Simons said in a Thursday press conference, stating he knows “exactly how Judge Kavanaugh feels now.”
“And I have made political enemies because of my very conservative voting record and I do not apologize for my conservative voting record. I will not back up off of that one bit. But because they can’t beat me in facts and because we are gaining a lot of ground in the North Dakota Capitol, they have to attack your character and that’s exactly what’s happening,” he added.