Luke Simons has been expelled. Never in our state’s history has that happened. 69 votes declaring the documented behavior will not be tolerated in the workplace. 25 votes willing to look the other way. Now that Simons is gone, the Legislature must work to address the environment and correct the processes that allowed that behavior to continue for years.
This historic move was necessary. The gut-wrenching recollection from House colleagues who were subjected to the harassment cannot be ignored. They had to relive it before the public. Watch it. Listen to them. The arrogance and lack of remorse from Simons demonstrated he would not change his behavior. There was no other option than expulsion that would have proven the point that time for a change and need to address this type of behavior was long past due.
Unfortunately, the work is not done. The pitiful attempt to hide behind “process” by the 25 House members willing to look the other way also cannot be ignored. Many of them have routinely stood in the way of formalizing a “process” to deal with unacceptable behavior from a lawmaker the whole time.
Some of those same lawmakers claimed there was no need for a workplace harassment policy when it was first implemented just a couple of years ago. They claimed that type of harassing behavior didn’t happen from lawmakers in the North Dakota Legislature.
Some of those same lawmakers repeatedly voted against establishing an Ethics Commission when it was introduced every session for a decade. They claimed they didn’t need an independent body watching over their actions and investigating formally filed complaints.
Some of those same lawmakers – just weeks ago – voted to prohibit funding the Ethics Commission created by voters when these same legislators refused to do it on their own. They claimed the Commission wouldn’t have enough work to justify the appropriation.
Some of those same lawmakers have worked tirelessly to narrow the scope and the authority of the voter-mandated Ethics Commission to prevent it from being effective in situations like the continued workplace harassment the public learned about this month through an open records request.
Will they continue to claim there is nothing to hide in Bismarck?
It is very telling that some of these same lawmakers willing to look the other way appear to be more offended by being called out for their ineffectiveness and complicity than the harassment of legislative staff and their colleagues. They can correct this, but it will take work. The way to political redemption for these individuals is to stop standing in the way of formalizing the “process” they desperately tried to hide behind this week.
Voters have work to do as well. Overwhelmingly, they were appalled by what they learned and supported the removal. Just as they were wise to create an ethics commission, perhaps they will be wise to vote out lawmakers who enabled the environment and refuse to correct it. Learn about these candidates. Then, elect public servants.