Op/Ed by State Representative Alex Riley (R-134)
The Missouri House of Representatives had an opportunity yesterday to set a clear precedent that would condemn those that abuse, harass, and act in a manner which degrade the brilliant hard working women who grace the halls of our Capitol building. We had an opportunity to say that inappropriate behavior must stop, and must stop now.
In an absolutely disgraceful vote yesterday, however, the Missouri House completely failed to set this precedent. Instead, it sent a different message. It revealed to the state as a whole and particularly the women working in our Capitol that disgusting behavior toward them would continue to be permitted.
Our House Ethics Committe recently issued a damning report revealing that one of our House members engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with a young house intern, threatened physical harm against another female house staffer to keep her quiet about the incident, and then lied to the investigating authorities about the matter.
We in the House debated yesterday and then voted on the penalty for this reprehensible conduct. During the debate, one of our Representatives offered a resolution that would have expelled the individual from the Missouri House. The resolution required a yes vote from 2/3 of the House members to take effect. The final tally on this resolution should have been an overwhelming bipartisan vote rebuking this disgusting conduct. Instead, the vote failed to achieve the necessary 2/3 support. I was one of the 91 members that voted to expel this individual and send the long overdue message that such conduct toward anyone, but particularly our female staff, will no longer be tolerated in this building.
That the House failed to send such a message yesterday is a disgrace.
Ultimately, the House voted to merley “censure” this individual. He remains a member of the Missouri House of Representatives. As one member pointed out during the debate yesterday, the word censure only means to express severe “disapproval.” And while that censure also imposed a monetary fine on this individual, at the end of the day, all this censure did was give the member a little slap on the wrist and express our “disapproval.”
That is not enough.
Until the House issues a clear condemnation of this type of heinous conduct, we will continue to see it take place against our staff, fellow members, and the public as a whole.
As a husband to a wonderful wife, dad to a five week old daughter, and State Representative with a brilliant female staffer, I hate the precedent that was in fact established in yesterday’s vote. Every woman that comes into our Capitol building, whether they are a house member, staffer, or member of the general public should be able to conduct their business in the People’s House without fear of misconduct toward them.
Heartbreakingly, due to the lack of action taken by the Missouri House of Representatives, this will continue to be an issue in this building.