Senate ethics committee dismisses complaint against Boulton
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Sen. Nate Boulton, who quit the Democratic race for Iowa governor over allegations of sexual misconduct, survived an ethics complaint Thursday that alleged he inappropriately touched a woman at a bar a year before he was elected.
The Iowa Senate Committee on Ethics concluded its jurisdiction is limited to legislators’ actions while in office.
The panel’s three Democrats and three Republicans voted to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction.
“The rules are not in place to govern conduct of the general public. Our determination today is limited to the conclusion that we are without lawful jurisdiction of this complaint,” said Committee Chairman Jerry Behn.
Boulton was elected on Nov. 8, 2016 and took office in January 2017. Des Moines attorney Sharon Wegner complained that he repeatedly placed his hand on her buttocks at two bars during an evening in November 2015.
Boulton kept his Senate seat but quit the race for the Democratic nomination for governor because of the allegations.
Wegner said after the meeting that the action was probably the correct decision for the committee based on current rules, but she suggested the rules may need to be broadened.
“I hope that moving forward folks realize that our ethics rules don’t hold our senators and elected officials accountable when they aren’t here on the Capitol grounds and I believe firmly that someone who is elected to public office is always in the public eye and that they should be held accountable for actions that they take even when they’re not here at work.”
She said she does not intend on pursing legal action against Boulton.
Senate Democratic leader Janet Petersen said when women have the courage to come forward to blow the whistle about being harassed, “we need to show them there is a pathway to justice.”
“I still believe Senator Boulton should resign from the Iowa Senate,” she said.
Petersen gave Boulton no committee assignments for the session beginning in January.
Boulton, in a statement released by his attorney Paige Fiedler said he planned to stay.
“It’s now time to focus on the critical work ahead in the Iowa Senate when the legislative session begins in January. I look forward to continuing my efforts to make Iowa a better place for the working families whose sacrifices and contributions each day make Iowa such an exceptional state.”
Last week Boulton challenged the truthfulness of Wegner’s complaint.
He has acknowledged struggling with alcohol and said he’s taken responsibility for the consequences of alcohol abuse. He said he was drunk and cannot say with absolute certainty that he never touched Wegner “despite neither he nor his wife recalling the conduct Ms. Wegner now describes.”
He said he chose to stop drinking over a year ago.