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Senate Racing to Censure But Reinstate Frye-Mueller

The momentum for permanently removing Julie Frye-Mueller from the Senate, if there was ever was any, is fizzling fast.

On Monday, Frye-Mueller’s ally Senator Tom Pischke (R-25/Dell Rapids) moved to reinstate the suspended Frye-Mueller, reconsider the appointment of the Select Committee empaneled to investigate her alleged inappropriate conduct, and delay the committee’s investigation. The motion failed on a 12–22 vote (see January 30 Senate Journal), but those 12 votes are double the meager 6 who voted against her suspension and investigation last week. Since Frye-Mueller couldn’t vote, she actually gained seven supporters—Senators Beal, Castleberry, Diedrich, Foster (one Democratic brick falls from the wall!), Hunhoff, Novstrup (who evidently reads the blog and can occasionally feel contrite over his double standards), and Wiik.

But delaying the investigation would have delayed the official driving of this steam train toward its destination of a mild rebuke. Over the course of a four-hour meeting, part held behind closed doors, part gobbled up by long recesses as Frye-Mueller and her husband Mike Mueller struggled toward the decision to actually testify under oath, the Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion came to the unanimous conclusion that Frye-Mueller should be punished but not expelled.

Democratic Minority Leader Senator Reynold Nesiba offered the mild resolution, moving that the committee direct staff to compose a report recommending that the Senate censure Frye-Mueller, limit her access to Legislative Research Council offices, and lift her suspension. Senator Nesiba also proposed limiting Mike Mueller’s access to LRC staff, but Chairman David Wheeler (R-22/Huron) said that penalizing anyone other than Frye-Mueller herself was beyond the scope of the committee’s authority, and Nesiba amended Mr. Mueller out of his motion. The committee passed the motion without any audible dissent.

Chairman Wheeler directed LRC staff to prepare this report for the committee’s final recommendation by noon today, with the intent that the full Senate be able to take this action this afternoon.

With the full she-said/they-said now on the record—both Frye-Mueller and her husband say the LRC employee brought up breastfeeding at the meeting last Tuesday, thus opening the door for Frye-Mueller to talk about the advice she got to have her husband help, the meaning of which advice Frye-Mueller claims she did not know, and the couple say the staffer didn’t seem at all uncomfortable during the meeting, and Mr. Mueller has lots of experience as a manager, so the staffer must have been “played” by the Senators carrying out their political agenda against Frye-Mueller—it appears Senators are not terribly interested in parsing through the contradictory descriptions of a meeting of which there is no other witness or record. The LRC staffer who reported the alleged inappropriate conduct—which language Frye-Mueller admitted under oath was “disgusting”, although she denied saying any such disgusting things—appears not to want any more public scrutiny (although Frye-Mueller let slip the staffer’s name during the hearing, and the staffer was sitting at the public portion of the hearing with her attorney*, so good luck with that) and isn’t interested in pushing for any punishment or further legal action. The rush to conclude Boobgate thus appears not to be an effort to railroad Julie Frye-Mueller out of Pierre but to shut this distraction down as quickly as possible while demonstrating proper concern about sexual harassment in the workplace. Going for censure rather than expulsion also blacks the eye of SDGOP black sheep Frye-Mueller while knocking the legs out from under her pending lawsuit against her nemesis, Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck.

*Austin Goss reports that giving the LRC employee legal counsel at yesterday’s hearing was Jack Hieb, Lee Schoenbeck’s old law partner in Webster, who managed the primary campaign of Rachel Dix, whom Schoenbeck supported in a failed effort to oust Senator Al Novstrup last spring.


  1. sx123 2023-02-01 06:50

    Frye-Mueller should not be allowed to vote on anything biology related.

    Rather, she should be limited to writing medical research papers for The Onion.

  2. Loren 2023-02-01 08:56

    Typical Republican inquiry, accused becomes the “victim” of some sordid political plot. Hardly ever fails. Must be in the GOP operating manual.

  3. Tom 2023-02-01 09:20

    this sucks…

  4. Eve Fisher 2023-02-01 09:37

    An amazing number of commentors on Dakota Scout are really, really upset that there was even this much investigation, because Frye-Mueller has denied all the charges, so I pointed out the following facts:

    “Presumption of innocence” does not you can’t investigate (or arrest or prosecute someone) without absolute proof that they’re guilty. All you need is probable cause. All it means that, in a courtroom, everyone (except the prosecutor, who is supposed to presume guilt) must presume innocence until proven guilty. Until then, all investigations are allowed when charges are made. Also, people who are investigated generally do deny their guilt. And sometimes they are lying. That’s why we have investigations.

    Meanwhile, they all want to know the accuser’s name, and the hysteria involved tells me if that name gets out, she’s going to get doxxed so badly she’s going to have to move out of South Dakota.

    PS: I still want to know why Frye-Mueller’s husband has to go with her everywhere she goes. At work.

  5. Donald Pay 2023-02-01 09:51

    I think censure is a good result. In a private company, Frye Mueller’s employment would likely be terminated, but kicking her out of an elected position is a little more complicated. I feel the Senate has done little to uphold the staff member who had the courage to bring this forward. In companies, these matters are usually handled much more privately. I hope she knows she did the right thing. The Senate may want to commend this staff person for bringing this matter to the attention of the Senate.

  6. Mark Anderson 2023-02-01 09:57

    You’d think she’d be embarrassed, or is it just the boobs?

  7. ABC 2023-02-01 11:35

    So innocent and not proven guilty at all Frye Mueller gets censured?

    Re publicans have no sense or understanding of what due process is.

    Frye Mueller should register as an independent. District 30 voters seem to prefer her. If she denied saying that, then she is innocent until proven guilty. The Senate Select Committee and the Senate today will be a kangaroo court.

    Republican means Work Makes Free, pro Putin Pro Trump pro Capital attack urine testing Losers. Let’s make their Losing Streak permanent by bringing their vote totals back to 1888 level, zero!

    Remember, many mongoose in God’s nature will jump on an elephant and overcome it by sheer force of numbers. Hey mongooses gotta eat too.

    There is nothing inevitable about this fake family values white supremacist organization.

    A multi party coalition of Libertarians, Democrats, Progressives and other center left Parties will eat and bring the R party down to zero.

    Under God the people rule.

  8. P. Aitch 2023-02-01 11:39

    Oh you crazy Germans. #TskTsk

  9. Dicta 2023-02-01 13:57

    ABC: what level of due process attaches to internal legislative disciplinary hearings? You seem REALLY certain re: your claims on due process and I can’t find any evidence that due process similar to criminal hearings is applied in such a context. Could you point me to your source?

  10. e platypus onion 2023-02-01 18:29

    Its been reinstated with censure.

  11. grudznick 2023-02-01 18:41

    They should have run her through the SSM. For those of you who don’t know, it’s typically done late at night, and hasn’t been done since the advent of the cameras and such on the floors of the legislatures. The old Senate Spanking Machine involved, as you no doubt imagine, a gauntlet of fellows with lining each side of the aisle holding rulers, legal pads, covers of 3-ring binders and the like. Often they wore their ties on their head like a sweatband. The recipient would then have to enter from the rear of the chamber, and run up to the Clerk’s podium, kiss it, and run back out, in their undies, whilst the gauntlet did what a gauntlet does and others heckled from the sides and galleries.

    After the SSM was done, all in good fun, everyone was friends again, and drank whiskey and beer.

    The good old days.

  12. bearcreekbat 2023-02-01 19:22

    Dicta raises a good question. “Due process” is a flexable concept that generally requires reasonable notice of the type of conduct prohibited, notice of the basis that the State intends to take adverse action, and a reasonable opportunity to be heard before any final adverse decision. Here it seems likely that Fry-Mueller was aware that it would be improper for a legislator to harass a subordinate about the subordinate’s personal life, which probably is sufficient to satisy that advance notice requirement of due process. The advance notice that is required deals with general conduct rather specifics. We are all on notice that it is a violation to drive over the speed limit, so there is no need for specific notice that we can’t drive 4 miles over or 6 miles over.

    Fry-Mueller also apparently has been fully informed of the nature of the specific conduct that has been alleged and has been given a fair opportunity to be heard, so those aspects of due process have been met. Indeed, she has apparently appeared with legal counsel and personally before the legislative body and has told her side of the story.

    Finally, since the temporary suspension was only temporary rather than final, normally that is permitted by adminstrative due process, as well as in many other situations, so long as no final adverse decision has yet been made, and so long as there is no unreasonable delay in giving an individual an opportunity to respond.

    There are other elements required by due process, which are often dependant on the nature of the proceedings, e.g. they differ in criminal cases, civil proceedings, and adminstrative proceeding, but those I discussed above are the big three that usually apply in any case where the gobernment is going to take adverse action against an individual. Like Dicta, I am having a hard time seeing any reasonable argument that Fry-Mueller has been denied “due process” within the meaning of constitutional and statutory law in this particular case.

  13. Caleb 2023-02-01 20:40

    What relatively little I have learned about JFM this past year has contained enough crazy from her that I would expect she lacks skill to recognize any audience’s subtle discomfort. Nothing I have learned about her suggests to me she has substantial strength in empathy.

    Anyway, she claimed the staffer made up all the disgusting talk, but did she go far enough to make any claim as to what she actually said?

  14. grudznick 2023-02-01 22:13

    Let grudznick tell you, Jack…

    In talking with some neighbors today, I had to school and chastise them, with some verbal blows about the head and shoulders. These fellows, and their ladies, did not get out to vote in the primary, but are angry that the young lady Ms. Frye-Mueller, who is insaner than most, got stripped for a couple days of getting free food and having to show up and “do her job.”

    Let grudznick tell you, Jack, any of you whiners in the District Numbered 30 who want to whine to grudznick better have at hand the actual measures where Ms. Frye-Mueller’s absence really meant anything. And you best tell me, or prove to me with a forensic vote audit conducted by Ms. Monae, that you voted in the primary. (we all know the general election is a joke)

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