Suspended South Dakota senator files lawsuit against Senate leader
Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller is suing Senate Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck over her suspension from the State Senate
PIERRE, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A suspended member of the South Dakota Senate is firing back at the leader of the chamber.
Shortly before Monday’s Senate session, Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller (R-Rapid City) filed a lawsuit against Senate Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown), alleging that he violated her First Amendment rights when the Senate voted to suspend her last week.
The suspension stems from a private conversation between Frye-Mueller and a Legislative Research Council (LRC) staffer about childhood vaccinations and breastfeeding. According to Senate leadership, that conversation included inappropriate behavior and harassment. You can read the full complaint below.
Despite a ruling from Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden, who expressed concern about suspending the Senate rules for a vote to suspend Frye-Mueller, the Senate voted 27-6 last Thursday to suspend the Rapid City Republican, strip her voting privileges, and form a committee to investigate her conduct.
Frye-Mueller was also removed from two committees and has been blocked from accessing her legislative email account.
At the time of the vote, Senate leaders did not reveal why Frye-Mueller should be suspended. Prior to the vote, Frye-Mueller accused the move of being for political reasons, and said on the Senate floor, “I know there’s an agenda behind all of this.”
The lawsuit alleges that Frye-Mueller was not given an opportunity to exercise any rights to due process or free speech prior to the vote. It also alleges that the suspension is detrimental to the citizens of District 30, which is comprised of more than 25,000 people.
Frye-Mueller is being represented in the case by former state representative Steve Haugaard.
The nine-member committee, led by Sen. David Wheeler (R-Huron), is scheduled for the first time Monday afternoon to adopt the rules of the probe, which is expected to be completed by the end of the week.
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