Stace Nelson Queried LRC about Sexual Misconduct Allegations in November

Who knew what when?

House Majority Leader Lee Qualm says he called for an investigation of fellow Republican Representative Mathew Wollmann’s sexual misconduct after Wollmann brought the matter to his attention “in recent days“:

House Majority Leader Lee Qualm said on the House floor that Wollmann told him he had consensual sexual contact with an intern in 2015 and 2016.

…Wollmann said he decided to come forward after he was approached Tuesday by a television station and asked about the situation. Qualm said Wollmann discussed the issue with him and in the House Republican caucus.

Qualm said he was first informed and started looking into the process of what lawmakers should do after an email in recent days from Republican Sen. Stace Nelson [James Nord, “S. Dakota House to Examine Lawmaker’s Conduct with Interns,” AP, 2017.01.18].

But leadership may have known about Wollmann’s troubles well before Wollmann’s confession and the media eruption therearound. Senator Stace Nelson has released to the press an e-mail that he sent to the Legislative Research Council on November 25, 2016, inquiring about sexually predatory conduct by a sitting legislator:

From: “S. Nelson” <>
Date: November 25, 2016 at 14:59:20 CST
Subject: Pages/Interns

Director Hancock,

#1 Are there still positions open?  Was the notice sent out to all our schools?

#2 I am concerned about reports that a sitting legislator has been sexually preying on page/interns.  It was my understanding that such misconduct was an explicit violation of legislator ethical Conduct. What has been done to rectify this disgraceful misconduct and what are the liabilities for SD and legislators for these past acts? For future violations?

S. Nelson [released to the press by Senator Stace Nelson, 2017.01.19]

Senator Nelson refers to “reports,” plural, indicating he had heard about sexual misconduct in the Legislature from multiple sources. Yet even with this information circulating about violations of the Joint Rules on ethical conduct and sexual harassment, House leaders seated Representative Wollmann in on January 10.

We may imagine a few logical scenarios:

  1. Neither the rumors nor Senator Nelson’s e-mail to LRC reached Majority Leader Qualm or the rest of leadership, and they really knew nothing of Representative Wollmann’s improper conduct until after seating him.
  2. Qualm and leadership heard about Wollmann’s improper conduct, received his assurances that his predatory days were over, and decided to seat Wollmann without pursuing any formal investigation or action under the rules. (Side note: was Wollmann’s December 22 proposal to his fiancée at the Capitol a shotgun engagement pushed by GOP leadership to prove he was off the market and thus not a threat to 2017’s interns and pages?)
  3. Qualm and leadership ignored the rumors and the rules and took no action to protect young legislative staff from further sexual predations.

Speaker G. Mark Mickelson yesterday named nine House members to investigate Wollmann’s improper conduct:

  • Chairman Rep. Timothy Johns (R-30/Lead)
  • Vice-Chairman Rep. Spencer Hawley (D-7/Brookings)
  • Rep. Mike Stevens (R-18/Yankton)
  • Rep. David Lust (R-34/Rapid City)
  • Rep. Larry Rhoden (R-29/Union Center)
  • Rep. Mary Duvall (R-24/Pierre)
  • Rep. Julie Bartling (D-21/Gregory)
  • Rep. Karen Soli (D-15/Sioux Falls)
  • Rep. Steven McCleery (D-1/Sisseton)

This committee must decide the proper punishment for Wollmann, but it has an even more important obligation to determine who knew what when and whether Legislative leadership properly acted on information of improper conduct and enforced its rules to protect young staffers from abuses of power.

Update 07:38 CST: KELO Radio’s Todd Epp says Senator Nelson’s November 25, 2016, e-mail to LRC may signal that the Fulton Senator has the “smoking gun” in this Legislative sex scandal.

61 Responses to Stace Nelson Queried LRC about Sexual Misconduct Allegations in November

  1. The GOP Party leadership circled the wagons around Wollmann. They were goign to protect him. This was never going to come out. Then along came Sen. Nelson – the skunk at their garden party. How simple it was when they could just hide all of the corruption. As long as nobody died suspiciously, nobody would ever find out about anything. Now it’s not so simple to hide everything.

  2. South Dakota’s #2 political blog reminds us that Rep. Wollmann sent out an anti-Stace Nelson postcard in the last election. If he wanted to pick a fight like that he should have had his own house in order. Of course the #2 political blog in #2 fashion makes Rep. Wollmann out to be the victim in this whole thing – the victim of Sen. Nelson. Despite the spin, most don’t see it that way.

  3. CH,

    Unless you have some evidence or reason to believe anything non-consensual occurred, the use of the term predator and derivatives is at best hyperbolic and possibly worse. And I don’t recall you ever using that word with regard to Democrats for whom consent was a question or there was a “misunderstanding.” And since you never asserted in a particular Democrat was a predator (and wife a protector of a predator) when the power equation was stronger and occurred in the workplace, it sure looks like you have a double standard.

    Predation is a serious charge and throwing it out in this situation diminishes its power when it is more appropriate.

  4. Honestly, some days it feels like high school around here. (Oh my god, like really, who’s sleeping with who? What a slut!) I sincerely hope Stace Nelson is not doing this out of pettiness. But more so, I would think parents in SD that have teens working as pages are glad that there is an investigation going on and to remind them to always be aware and report any sexually harassing behavior by anyone.

  5. It’s like a damn soap opera in Pierre, isn’t it? Good for Stace for doing what he should have in bringing up inappropriate behavior/violations to leadership. He was doing his job. And that they ignored that and didn’t do an investigation? That should be another investigation all by itself. Is anyone asking that question? Again though – isn’t that modus operandi in Pierre? (GEAR Up, EB-5………many things were ignored)

    I hope among hope that Stace is doing this – not because Wollman opposed him or out of pettiness…but because it was the right thing to do. Rumor has it that Pierre is party central. If that is true – Wollman is the only one committing hanky panky?

    That being said….like Troy, I’m uncomfortable with the term “sexual predator” or “predatory” without more evidence. Yes, Wollman is in a position of power. But were the interns, who were adults, forced to do anything? Threatened? Is this just interns enamored with a younger man, closer to their age? Or were they really stalked and victims of predatory behavior?

    Wollman’s behavior was wrong, inappropriate and terrible for a sitting legislator. Wollman is, finally, admitting that he had these relations with interns. Uggggg. Not good at all. That is one subject/investigation. That the leadership ignored this? Another subject/investigation. Predatory? I don’t know…..if evidence exists of sexually predatory behavior, shouldn’t we be looking at a criminal investigation?

  6. Mike Boswell

    The question still needs to be asked, Was the actions of Rep Wollmann unwanted sexual contact (in that case you have Sexual Harassment and thus a scandal). If these sexual encounters were not unwanted, you have nothing more than a Representative putting himself in a bad position. He was unmarried and available at the time. Before we call this a scandal lets hear what these interns have to say. Stace Nelson has a history of not working well with others who don’t agree with him and he is equally as hard on those from both parties. I would not put any sainthood on Stace until the legislature hears from the Interns.

    Shouting out corrupting is too easily done without any requirement to give proof. Let’s get the proof before we shout out scandal and corruption.

  7. Darin Larson

    Mike Boswell, if the leaders of the legislature are to be believed, Wollman’s conduct was prohibited by the ethical rules that existed and all legislators are to abide by. It doesn’t matter if these were consensual relations. If violating your ethical and moral obligations as a legislator is no big deal to you, then we have a difference of opinion.

  8. Mike, here is why you are wrong: Sen. Nelson tried to introduce a new code of conduct rule to forbid sexual relations between legislators and interns. The legislature rejected that new rule because they said the current rules of conduct cover that under sexual harassment policy. Therefore, what Wollmann has admitted to was and is forbidden and consent is irrelevant. Now, if you agree with that rule or not is fair discussion, but the legislature made clear what its definition of its sexual harassment policy was and is.

  9. Mike Boswell

    There has been Sexual Harassment rules in the Military for decades. The key words in any misconduct issues is “unwanted sexual contact”. Again lets hear from the Victims (if there are Victims).

  10. Mike, you are ignoring what the Legislature defined as harassment in their policy. They go by their definition for their rules. They made that clear at the beginning of this session. Nelson gave them an opportunity to re-define their policy, but they chose to reaffirm it.

  11. Mike Boswell

    Please provide a link to the rule in question. I hardly believe that the SD Legislature didn’t follow the same guidelines that have been in the Fed for decades.

  12. Darin Larson

    Mike, you will certainly believe whatever you want to believe. You don’t seem to want to listen to reason. Now you are talking about rules of the military as if they are the same for the SD legislature?

    If you want to talk about the rules of the military, this situation is akin to the prohibition against fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel in the US military:

    “The Air Force frowns on personal relationships between officers and enlisted members, both on and off-duty. Those engaging in fraternization can be brought up on Uniform Code Military Justice (UCMJ) charges.
    A relationship is considered fraternization even if the parties are in different units, different commands or even different branches of service.”

    Officers are prohibited from:

    Engaging in sexual relations with or dating enlisted members. The Air Force definition of “dating” is broad, covering not only the traditional idea of dating as a prearranged, social engagements, but as anything that is more contemporary and would “reasonably be perceived to be a substitute for traditional dating.”

    Any other tangents that you need to go down to avoid confronting the misconduct alleged here?

  13. Mike, the legislature articulated that definition and expectation as their whole reason for rejecting Sen. Nelson’s request for a new rule. They ruled his addition (which seemed like a more broad rule on sexual relations) as redundant to what the rule already included. This is a “hand in the cookie jar” moment: they said a specific conduct was against the rules, then an instance of that specific conduct came to light.

    Your position is that they SHOULD have said that sexual relations (if consensual) is not forbidden; they did not say that when given the opportunity. They went the other way on the issue.

    I do not even need to get into right or wrong, this is a matter of definition.

    I would also question your generalization about military policy: I believe that fraternization (albeit consensual) between officers/enlisted or differentiated ranks has gotten several high-ranking officers in trouble.

  14. Troy, when you alleged in a different thread that one of Sen. Nelson’s friends was pursuing an intern much younger than himself and then-Rep. Nelson said nothing, were you talking about the chubby bald guy who beats his wife? If so, I can’t believe there was any degree of success involved in that endeavor.

  15. Greg Deplorable

    Stace is doing exactly what he campaigned on doing. Cleaning up Pierre, nothing wrong with following through on a campaign promise. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

  16. Senator Stace Nelson

    I want to personally and publicly express my deep respect and appreciation to the only two stalwart public servants who took immediate action when presented with facts of this misconduct over a year ago. Upon receiving some of the widespread knowledge of inappropriate,and in several cases unwanted, persistent romantic interests in the Capitol and outside the Capitol of a sitting legislator.

    Senator Greenfield personally contacted House leadership to confirm the information of misconduct that they were already aware of and had received complaints of.

    It is my understanding based off his own observations, and receipt of information, Dusty Johnson immediately removed the suspect legislator s yeat ago from having access or interaction at official functions with the Teenage Republicans (TARs).

    Well done gentlemen, well done!

  17. Mike Boswell

    There are even exceptions in the fraternization between officer/enlisted. Example a married couple where one is enlisted and spouse becomes an officer. But I think I did hit the nail on the head and the key word is “unwanted sexual contact”, that doesn’t seem to be the case with the evidence so far. Thus you don’t have a scandal. Now what Stace is now posting is about underage interns. The Wollmann case is where both individuals are in their 20s and both are unmarried. I will stand with my previous statement. Unless the “victims” say they were “victimized” this is no scandal. The legislature doesn’t need to broaden the rules to make this anymore complicated.

  18. Darin Larson

    Try again Mike:

    But getting married does not shield service members from charges of fraternization. A relationship that begins between an officer and an enlisted member who then marry can still be considered fraternization, as the relationship was initiated contrary to Air Force custom.

  19. Mike Boswell

    Sorry Darin you are wrong in the situation where the enlisted and the spouse is not in the military but then becomes an Officer is an approved exception. It then is not fraternization, so long Officer is not appointed over the enlisted. I was in 23 years and seen this exception in real time.

  20. Daniel Buresh

    This isn’t the military where a direct hierarchy exists for all those enlisted. I relate the power structure to that of the private sector when pretty much any sexual relationship is allowed as long as it doesn’t involve supervisor/subordinate. I look at this as inter-departmental relations, which most places allow.

  21. Roger Elgersma

    The Bible says, “be assured that your sin will find you out.” At least Stace and a few other Republicans do not try to stop this. But it seems most of them do not see this process as a good thing. They still have the gag law and lose credibility every day they keep it.

  22. Mike Boswell

    Daniel to the extent that it is “unwanted” that is true. But there are many cases where NCO/Airman (Supervisor/Subordinate) exist and even to the point where they are married. At that point the Airman is moved to another NCO. It is not a rare occurrence.

    Roger I think you have some typos in your post. But we don’t need to have rules on conduct where there is no “victim”.

    Bill Clinton would have been not been impeached if he hadn’t lied about his conduct. Just saying.

  23. Darin Larson

    Mike, we are far afield of the subject here and I have entertained your tangents. However, as O pointed out, you are wanting to debate whether the conduct should be against the rules for legislators. The legislative committee tasked with making the rules already decided that actions like those admitted to by Wollman were prohibited by the existing code of conduct. Your beliefs are irrelevant.

  24. owen reitzel

    “It is my understanding based off his own observations, and receipt of information, Dusty Johnson immediately removed the suspect legislator s yeat ago from having access or interaction at official functions with the Teenage Republicans (TARs).”

    Curious Stace. Why didn’t Dusty say something to somebody about this?

  25. Mike Boswell

    Darin No body has yet produced the rules. They can investigate this all they want, but I believe if the interns say it was consensual you have no scandal and no investigation.

  26. Darin is right. GOP Party leadership says the rules prohibit what Rep. Wollmann did. I don’t know why someone from that party thinks his own leadership was lying.

    You can’t have it both ways Mr. Boswell. Either you are saying:

    1) your GOP Party legislative leadership was lying about the existing rules prohibiting sex between legislators and interns, or

    2) that Rep. Wollmann violated those rules.

    Which lane are you in?

  27. Mike Boswell

    Post the rules I don’t know what they are. If they follow what has been the Federal guidelines for decades. It clearly states that the “sexual contact is unwanted”. Meaning the Intern must claim a victim status before it is harassment. If you can show me otherwise , other than word of mouth I can accept that.

  28. Mike Boswell

    I could careless what the party leadership says, what is written down is what matters.

  29. Man, what a sexy… SEXY topic.

    Too bad ethics aren’t a strong suit for Republicans (and therefore 3/4 of South Dakota), but hey, conspiracies are – so this might work.

  30. You know how some young women are. Perhaps the lady was the predator and young Mr. Wollmann was simple her victim.

  31. Porter Lansing

    South Dakota Legislature = Intemperate Immoderate Regulation Obsessed Germanic Patrimony

  32. Pres W J Clinton was impeached for consensual and willing sex with an Intern.
    Guess if you are an R in an R enviornment it’s a “gimme” and your home Free.

  33. mike from iowa

    Bill Clinton would have been not been impeached if he hadn’t lied about his conduct. Just saying.

    Clinton’s sexcapades were not the order of the day and should never have been allowed to be investigated. Ken Starr was charged with finding out if any crimes were committed in the White Water investigation.

  34. Porter Lansing

    new state motto? SOUTH DAKOTA … WHERE RULES TRUMP LOVE ?

  35. Mike Boswell

    No both RE Kolbe and Mike from Iowa, Bill Clinton was impeached for lying to Congress.

  36. Nick Nemec

    I believe rule 1a-4 is the one in question.

  37. When your plumb out of new ideas, just pivot around sex conspiracies. Rural Americans really eat that crap up – and with this new made for TV political era – cheapening the exchange of ideas – Sen. Nelson might really succeed with this soap opera crap.

  38. If a kid is too stupid to know what sexual harassment is, when it happens to them, then they are too stupid to be working in any capacity under a state legislator.

    Problem solved.

  39. Mike Boswell

    1A-4. Sexual harassment prohibited. All members are responsible for ensuring that the
    workplace is free from sexual harassment. All members shall avoid any action or conduct which
    could be viewed as sexual harassment. A member shall report any sexual harassment complaint
    to the presiding officer of the house to which the member belongs. If the situation is not
    resolved, the member shall forward the complaint to the Executive Board of the Legislative
    Research Council.

    Sexual harassment is bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. In most modern legal contexts, sexual harassment is illegal. As defined by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex.”

    The key is always “unwelcome or inappropriate” so long as the Intern is not claiming Victim Status there is no Sexual Harassment and no scandal. That doesn’t say Rep Wollmann didn’t put himself in a place to be questioned.

  40. Darin Larson

    Mike Boswell, you are wrong about this issue resting on whether it was “unwelcome” or not. Inappropriate, unethical behavior rests on much more than whether the interns viewed themselves as “victims.” An inappropriate relationship can exist without a victim per se. The committee investigating this issue could find it was an inappropriate relationship without any testimony from the interns.

  41. Darin Larson

    PS The language you cite states: “All members shall avoid any action or conduct which
    could be viewed as sexual harassment.”

    This to me means even the appearance of inappropriate conduct is prohibited, let alone actual misconduct.

  42. The slut-shamer Mr. Nelson is probably just bitter about nearly losing to that young Mr. Finck and is lashing out for the post cards sent.

  43. The rule that’s been claimed to cover not sleeping with your interns was cited by those voting against the explicit proposed sex ban as 1B-1.

    “Maintenance of ethical standards. The people of South Dakota require that their
    legislators maintain the highest of moral and ethical standards as such standards are essential
    to assure the trust, respect and confidence of our citizens. Legislators have a solemn
    responsibility to avoid improper behavior and refrain from conduct that is unbecoming to the
    Legislature or that is inconsistent with the Legislature’s ability to maintain the respect and trust
    of the people it serves. While it is not possible to write rules to cover every circumstance, each
    legislator must do everything in his or her power to deal honorably with the public and with his
    or her colleagues and must promote an atmosphere in which ethical behavior is readily
    recognized as a priority and is practiced continually, without fail.”

  44. Darin’s right, Boswell. As Kolbe reminds us, Monica Lewinsky welcomed Bill Clinton’s attention, but their sexual contact was still unethical behavior.

    denature, that’s a key point. Rep. David Lust made that point on exactly that rule, and David Lust is on the House Select Committee

  45. Darin’s right, Boswell. Monica Lewinsky welcomed Bill Clinton’s attention, but their sexual contact was still unethical behavior.

    denature, that’s a key point. Rep. David Lust made that point on exactly that rule, and David Lust is on the House Select Committee.

  46. And Mike Boswell, I have been citing the rules clearly from my first report on the Joint Legislative Procedure Committee meeting last week when legislators first shot down the “no sexual contact” rule proposed by Senator Nelson. Pay attention, and stop wrongly making it sound like I’m not providing the relevant information. I’m offering you (with help from my sharp commenters, thank you!) the most thorough explanation of the rules anywhere in the press.

  47. Boswell, I’m ready to shout corruption here. Wollmann lied on camera. Defending him should end right there. He then admitted wrongdoing. Any remaining defense should end right there. Wollmann’s promiscuous misconduct (that’s redundant, right?) was common knowledge well before this Session, and leadership took no action. That’s corruption.

  48. Troy and Dana, on word choice:

    Senator Nelson used the word “preying” in his November 25 e-mail. I used the word “predatory” in my post.

    This is not an accusation; I’m testing language. Suppose we have a situation where a man in a position of power targets members of a group of subordinates for sexual conquest (targets… conquest… look at the language we use). He’s not looking for lasting relationships; he’s just trying to score during a limited season. He goes on the hunt. He bags several trophies. Is preying an appropriate word?

  49. Mike Boswell

    Cory I stand by my statement. If the interns don’t claim to be Victims this is a non issue. You so want to find some kind of smoking gun as well as Stace Nelson, but if these interns say it was wanted contact you have no case. The best you have is that Wollmann should have not put himself in that position in the first place.

    Bill Clinton’s issue was he lied to US Congress and never came clean. That’s why he was impeached.

    There are many incidents in private and public sector where subordinates and supervisor have sexual contact. In most of those cases there was no Sexual Harassment. Now many some people get then nose out of joint (Stace Nelson), when this happens, but we don’t go out on a crusade unless the parties involved cry foul.

    As someone who posted on this in my FB has said The worst this is about is “slut shaming”.

  50. “Now many some people” sorta confuses me.

    If a kid is too stupid to know what sexual harassment is, especially when it happens to them, then they are just simply too stupid to be working in any capacity under a state legislator.

    Problem solved.

  51. SEXY SEXY SEXY – issues – LOL – oh man, can feel the sex?

  52. [you all] feel the sex? – LOL

  53. Mike Boswell

    Yeah I could have posted that better, Thank You Adam. No some people have gotten their “noses out of joint” (Stace Nelson), when this becomes public knowledge. Maybe the rest of the legislature knew there was no victim and no action was required. Or even possibly they didn’t want to butt into someone else’s private matters.
    The key point Cory and Adam is did the Interns claim they are victims. Again if they are not, you have no corruption and you have no sexual harassment.
    But now you have this coming out publically and we know how well people like their private lives put out in the open. Could the very public ‘shaming” of this issue cause there to be a “victim”, that becomes much more likely.

    BTW Adam this should be treated with a bit less tongue and cheek attitude. I am not trying to diminish wrong doing, but to keep things in perspective and real.

    Unfortunately there are those that want to prove corruption at any opportunity and that is equally as wrong as what is happening here.

  54. Create some jobs, stimulate the private sector, or STFU. That’s where I am at on this issue.

  55. Mike Boswell’s problem is that he is more focused on insulting me personally and keeping people from learning the facts I report than he is about checking abuses of power by our elected officials. Talk about misplaced priorities.

    What shaming are we talking about? What young woman has been called names or criticized on this blog or anywhere else in the media? The only “slut” being “shamed” is Mathew Wollmann, who somehow thinks his limited time in Pierre is well spent bedding interns.

    As I said in another thread, we don’t need to ask the interns whether they consented or not. Wollmann admitted he behaved inappropriately (and if he didn’t think he had behaved inappropriately, he wouldn’t have lied about it initially). If interns come forward and say Wollmann victimized them, the story gets bigger. But Wollmann’s behavior and the leadership’s response to it is already newsworthy and rife with ethical problems.

  56. Mike Boswell

    Ok Cory I will buy that but it doesn’t make a scandal until those interns claim victimization. Fair enough?

  57. No, not fair enough. It’s a scandal because a legislator lied and engaged in unprofessional conduct. See the Nelson thread in which I explain that Wollmann violated rules regardless of whether it was sexual harassment or sexual conduct.

  58. Mike Boswell

    We will have to agree to disagree at this point and see the results of the commission.

  59. All I see here is that Wollmann did wrong, and he admitted to it. Cory wanted to see leadership taken action a lot earlier than they did – made a fuss about them not taking action – then they prolly approached Wollmann about it more privately to tell him how they ‘have to hold him accountable,’ and so he resigned to do a small bit of damage control regarding all the fuss.

    If people, like Cory, never point this crap out (the tendency SD Republicans have to sweep anything that looks bad under the rug), state leaders might just remain on autopilot and quit holding anyone accountable for anything.

    When people like Sen. Stace Nelson try make government bigger by adding redundant laws to the books in order to keep people from having sex in the state capitol, it’s just placating to his district’s demographics.

    Wollmann has resigned, we all know why, and so we are all winners here. Everyone wins.

  60. Thank you everyone who made a fuss!

  61. What has come of this? Has Mr. Nelson raked the Council of Research over the coals for not acting on his questions? I bet you a hat Mr. Nelson is afraid to upset the whole Council because he is teetering on the edge already.