Representative Mathew Wollmann (R-8/Madison) resigned from the South Dakota House today over his admitted sexual misconduct with Legislative interns over the last two years.
In another case of not knowing how to say what needs to be said and then shut up, the disgraced legislator couldn’t simply apologize and leave. Instead, he expanded what could have been a 100-word letter into a 400-word fluffball that concludes with his declaration of intent to run for Legislature again.
Here is the text of Wollmann’s letter of resignation, submitted to Speaker of the House G. Mark Mickelson and made public this morning. I bold the necessary text and italicize the phrases that a guy whose sexual promiscuity got him into this jam ought not say:
Speaker G. Mark Mickelson,
I want to take this moment to write to you personally and share with you some important thoughts and news. I cannot express enough how fortunate it has been to serve South Dakota in the House of Representatives these past two years. It was also a magnificent honor to be re-elected this past November. I have built friendships with countless individuals from across the state, and have had the privilege to truly see the greatest South Dakota has to offer, and what we can improve on.
But no matter what successes a man or woman achieves, it is their failures that they remember the most. Human beings unlike any other animal on this planet are constantly reminded of their shortcomings, and pay for them two-fold. I do not condone what I have done. I have embarrassed this institution that I care so deeply for, my party, my family, my friends, and myself.
This past weekend I have put much thought into what these coming weeks would entail. I know that we as a legislative body have again many important decisions to make. Countless hours of consideration and caution will go into these determinations. I also know that although I feel extraordinarily better for coming forward and telling what is the absolute truth of the matter, that the trust of the people isn’t with me one-hundred percent as I wish it was, and that my thoughts and energy are not directed immediately to those important issues. I am without the focus I desire.
It is with a heavy heart, that I have decided that in the best interests of this body, this institution, and my constituents, that effective immediately Monday January 23rd 2017, I resign as a member of the South Dakota House of Representatives.
I have nothing but the greatest respect for those that I have grown so close to these past two years, and even in these early days of the 92nd legislative session. Those that read this should know that it is my wrongdoing that has put this institution in a sour light. Those responsible for me have displayed nothing but the highest honor for this establishment.
Again, I cannot express deeply enough how regretful I am of my actions.I hope to someday regain your trust and to return to this honorable body a man of greater knowledge.
God bless to all of those who read this.
Mathew Wollmann [letter of resignation, 2017.01.23]
I’m not going to spend all day revising Wollmann’s puffy verbage, simply because it takes me ten seconds to figure out all he really needed to say:
I screwed up. I screwed subordinates. That’s wrong. I’m sorry. I resign.
Everything else is superfluous at best, tone-deaf and self-serving at worst. Is the moment a legislator declares (he declares, so let’s drop any talk about “allegations”) he is ethically unfit to serve in public office is really the moment for him to ask us to elect him to public office again someday?
Wollmann says he has “nothing but the greatest respect” for those he has “grown close to” over the last two years… but the greatest respect, as preached by his fellow conservative, “family values” Republicans, would have meant not having sex with any of those people, not to mention more than one of those people, until he married them. I don’t have to wade that far into the theocracy to conclude that the “greatest respect” for the Legislature means not violating the Legislature’s rules of conduct by seeking sex from multiple members of the least empowered class of employees in the Legislature.
In response, Speaker Mickelson, Majority Leader Lee Qualm, and Minority Leader Spencer Hawley issued this press release:
State Representative Mathew Wollman tendered his resignation from the South Dakota House of Representatives today. He decided this was best for him, his fiancé, his family and the young ladies involved.
The South Dakota State Legislature, like any other organization, is comprised of human beings. Consequently, we will experience human failure and imperfection. Every legislator has an obligation to refrain from behavior unbecoming to the Legislature and inconsistent with maintaining the public’s trust.
We will be meeting over the coming weeks with legislators, current interns and legislative staff to discuss any improvements we can make in the legislator and employee training concerning appropriate standards of conduct and the proper reporting of potential violations of these standards of conduct as well as any recommended updates to our legislative rules.
To all our past, current and future interns:
Your service is appreciated. Our doors, phones and emails are always open for any thoughts or concerns you may have [South Dakota House Leadership, press release, posted by KSFY, 2017.01.23].
This press release reminds us that Wollmann’s conduct involved multiple interns (all female, apparently). It implies that Wollmann really did violate the Joint Rules listed in the letter inviting testimony before the House Select Committee named to investigate Wollmann.
Wollmann’s resignation renders the House Select Committee’s initial mission moot: Wollmann is not a legislator, so he’s no longer subject to their rules or punishment. That may actually be a productive mooting, since now it clears the decks for the Legislature to investigate the bigger question of who among Legislative leaders knew what when about Wollmann’s misconduct. Senate Pro-Tem Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) has said he reported concerns about Wollmann’s behavior to House Speaker Dean Wink in 2015. An intern has told the press that Wollmann’s sexual misconduct was common knowledge during his two-year term. If House leaders knew about Wollmann’s sexual misconduct and took no action during 2015 or 2016, they have done more to damage public trust in the Legislature by closing their eyes than Wollmann did by unzipping his pants.