In the latest allegation of inappropriate conduct against Rep. Matt Manweller, a former high-school student of his says she had a sexual relationship with him in the 1990s when she was a minor.
Republican leaders in the state House called for the resignation of one of their most prominent members Friday after yet another allegation of sexual misconduct surfaced against him.
In an article published Friday, NW News Network reported that one of Rep. Matt Manweller’s former high-school students said she had a sexual relationship with him in the 1990s when she was a minor. She provided a diary and other corroborating information about their time together.
Manweller denied the woman’s account.
House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox said in a statement Friday evening that he was saddened and disappointed by the allegation.
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“What Matt did was wrong,” Wilcox said. “Our Leadership team has asked Matt to resign from his position as state representative. Our entire caucus will discuss this issue early next week.”
Manweller said in a text message that he will not have a comment until Monday afternoon.
The woman’s account published Friday is the latest in a series of allegations of Manweller’s treatment of young women, and students in particular. A Seattle Times story last year explored reports of misconduct from his job at Central Washington University, and the university later launched an independent investigation that led to Manweller’s firing last month.
Manweller had been serving as assistant floor leader for the Republicans in the House but stepped down from that position last year after the initial articles. He was also stripped from his role as the top Republican on a labor committee.
Manweller, who represents the Ellensburg area, is seeking re-election this year. He got 63 percent of the vote in the primary last month, well ahead of Democratic candidate Sylvia Hammond.
If he were to resign, Manweller cannot be removed from the ballot at this point in the election, said Erich Ebel, a spokesman for the Washington Secretary of State. Ebel said if Manweller wins the election but decides not to hold the seat, the district’s Republican precinct committee officers would gather to choose three nominees for the seat and local county councilmembers in the district would have to decide who the new lawmaker would be.
In the latest allegation, the woman spoke to NW News Network on condition of anonymity, saying she met Manweller as a freshman at Wood River High School in Hailey, Idaho, in the 1990s when he was a social-studies teacher there. She said she later took classes from him and developed a friendly relationship and then, after her 1997 graduation, a romantic one.
The woman said she connected with Manweller outside of her workplace soon after the graduation. In a journal entry that she showed NW News Network, the woman recalled the meeting and said Manweller “kept calling me sweetie and cutie, which was weird.”
Manweller, who was about 10 years older at the time, had also told her he was going through “withdrawals” over not seeing her, according to the journal.
The woman said they went on a hike together the next week and that she went to his house afterward and they had sex. She was 17, and said the two worked to keep their sexual relationship hidden from her parents and others. Idaho law treated such a relationship as statutory rape.
Manweller disputed the Idaho woman’s account, according to NW News Network. He did not return text messages from The Seattle Times on Friday.
The woman reportedly disclosed the relationship to at least one person, a friend and former classmate, who confirmed to the NW News Network that she learned of the relationship from the woman in 1997. The woman’s husband also said she informed him of the relationship in the early 2000s.
The woman’s account has some similarities to that of Manweller’s first wife. After working in Idaho, Manweller began working at a high school in Utah. It was there that he met OraLynn Reeve, who was also a student of his.
Reeve has said they met when he was 28 and she was 16. She said they kissed when she was 17 and started dating later when she was 18. They married shortly after she graduated from high school.
Manweller more recently worked as a professor at Central Washington University (CWU), where more questions have been raised about his interactions with young women. The university fired him after the most recent investigation into his behavior.
Among the allegations at CWU was from a student in 2009 who said Manweller put his hand on her leg during a meeting and said, “There’s always a way for you to get an A in this class.” The recent investigative report said the woman understood him to mean that a sexual favor could earn a positive grade.
Manweller has said it was not a sexual suggestion at all and that he is flabbergasted the woman took it that way.
Another allegation from a woman in 2006 said Manweller had commented in a meeting that the two of them had a sexual energy and they could discuss her work “orally” at a hotel. Manweller also denied that allegation.
Investigators have also looked at the accounts of other women, including a woman who baby-sat for him and a woman who worked at the Legislature.
Manweller has characterized the university investigation as biased and focused on flimsy allegations. He is seeking $2 million as part of a claim against the university.