Sex scandal raises ethical questions

Published: Jan. 18, 2017 at 10:16 PM CST
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Mathew Wollmann, the lawmaker who admitted to having sexual relationships with interns, says he doesn't think he broke any laws or rules.

There are many reasons why having a sexual relationship with an intern is could be seen as unethical.

Wollmann says the interns were consenting adults, but some say these relationships possibly take advantage of his authority as a state legislator. They also raise questions about how it affected the way the girls were treated at work.

“I was very sad, very sad,” former Kermit Staggers shared his reaction after hearing about Wollmann’s confession.

Staggers served in the South Dakota Senate for 8 years.

Being a legislator is demanding and there are many expectations.

“You know we're legislators elected by the people, we're also supposed to set a good example,” he explained.

He says having a sexual relationship with an intern is not doing that.

“It's not appropriate. We don't expect our legislators to engage in that kind of behavior, especially people they might be working with on daily basis. We don't want that,” he said.

Wollmann says it was consensual, but Staggers says that doesn’t matter.

“Even if they say yes, yes, yes, yes. No, we don't want that to take place at all,” he stated.

The lawmaker is the intern's superior.

“Some people could argue well yeah this is voluntary, well at the same time you have the argument that this is taking advantage of a person, and we don't want this to happen,” Staggers pointed out.

This behavior isn't considered inappropriate at just the statehouse.

Officials from the HR Support Services Firm Weston Group do not recommend these kinds of relationships.

“Those types of situations can get a little bit messy, either the employee will be treated much better than other employees or much worse than other employees,” senior HR advisor Ashley Fellows said.

“I think the legislature should be doing something significant to indicate we don't tolerate this at all. We don't tolerate this,” Staggers said.

Staggers says Wollmann could be facing several repercussions, including being expelled from the legislature.

He was just re-elected this past November.

The Speaker of the House says there is a rule against conduct unbecoming of a legislator and sexual harassment.

This investigative committee could subpoena witnesses to determine if these rules were broken.