JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri lawmaker has resigned under pressure after an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint found he engaged in “ethical misconduct” by sending flirtatious text messages and repeatedly pursuing a relationship with a legislative employee whom he supervised.
Democratic Rep. DaRon McGee, of Kansas City, submitted his resignation late Monday. It was printed in the House Journal, which was publicly available Tuesday, along with an investigatory report from the House Ethics Committee detailing the allegations against him and recommending a series of punishments.
Reached by phone Tuesday by The Associated Press, McGee said: “I’m not making any comment.” He referred questions to an attorney, who did not immediately respond to a message.
McGee is the latest of at least three dozen state lawmakers across the country who have resigned or been expelled from office since 2017 following allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment. Dozens of additional accused lawmakers have faced other repercussions, such as the loss of legislative leadership positions or committee assignments.
Most of those allegations against lawmakers were made public after October 2017, when claims of sexual misconduct against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein sparked the #MeToo movement. Many state legislatures have responded by updating their sexual harassment policies.
The Missouri House updated its sexual harassment policies in 2015 after then-Speaker John Diehl Jr. resigned after acknowledging he had exchanged sexually suggestive text messages with a House intern. The case against McGee also involved text messages.
The House committee said it subpoenaed electronic communications between McGee and the employee and received a series of text messages between 2017 and 2018, including several instigated by McGee that were “flirtatious in nature and gave the appearance” he was “attempting to establish an amorous relationship.”
The report said McGee made repeated communications over the course of at least 10 months that were not welcomed by the employee and then took actions which resulted in the termination of the person’s employment. The committee also said McGee “repeatedly delayed and obstructed” its proceedings, which began after it received a report about his conduct on Jan. 7.
The House Journal indicates McGee initially submitted a resignation letter to the House speaker at 6:55 p.m. Monday saying that he had accepted employment in Kansas City that would cause him to return full-time to his district. The letter said he was resigning effective Thursday.
Immediately beneath that letter was printed the House Ethics Committee report recommending that McGee be censured because of his conduct toward the employee, be removed from all committee assignments, resign as assistant minority leader and pay $7,408 of restitution to the House for the investigation against him. If McGee remained in office, the committee recommended that he be subject to expulsion if he didn’t comply with the other sanctions or if another sexual harassment complaint was brought against him.
The journal then contains a second resignation letter from McGee, submitted at 7:45 p.m. Monday, saying he was resigning immediately. That letter also cited a full-time job in Kansas City while making no mention of the investigation against him.
McGee declined to comment to the AP about the job cited in his resignation letter.
Republican House Speaker Elijah Haahr issued a statement Tuesday describing McGee’s behavior as “inexcusable” and adding that he had “broken the trust placed in him” and abused his position.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, a Democrat, said McGee wasn’t worthy of remaining in public office.
“By holding our colleagues accountable for their actions, we can begin to change the culture of an institution where behavior such as this has been tolerated for far too long,” Quade said Tuesday in a written statement.
Earlier in April, the House Ethics Committee found that Republican state Rep. Rocky Miller 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 or pervasive 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 further action against Miller.
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