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Transcript: Frye-Mueller’s Offensive Comments About Son, Breastfeeding Followed History of Unprofessional Comments to LRC Staffer

The Senate has published a redacted transcript of the testimony it took behind closed doors from the Legislative Research Council employee who accused Senator Julie Frye-Mueller (R-30/Rapid City) of harassment. That accusation led to the Senate’s removal of Frye-Mueller from her committee assignments, suspension from three days of floor debates, formal censure, and restriction of Frye-Mueller’s access to LRC offices.

The redactions conceal the LRC employee’s name (which Frye-Mueller exposed at last Tuesday’s hearing), the year she got married, the year the LRC hired her, the number of Sessions she has worked, the month her son was born, the name of her previous employer, and certain health information related to her pregnancy. Otherwise, the transcript provides the accuser’s complete testimony, which began with this brief statement:

Thank you, Mr. Chair, committee. First and foremost, the statement that I gave you and my supervisor in the LRC, I still stand by that. The big thing I want to just say is I love my job, I love my job, and I very much hope this doesn’t affect it, and I love my family. That’s my statement [LRC employee, testimony to Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion, 2023.01.31].

The LRC employee rejects the tearful assertion Senator Frye-Mueller made in her subsequent open testimony that the Senator and the employee were friends:

SENATOR DAVIS: I was wondering if you could describe your relationship with Senator Frye-Mueller prior to this incident.

EMPLOYEE: First and foremost, if I could first explain a little bit about my job. I’m a legislative staffer. That means not only do I have my current supervisors in the LRC as my bosses, but I have 105 bosses, and that means I deal with a lot of different ideas and a lot of different things that I’m working on at any one given time. And part of how I give a good service, I believe, how I serve all of you is being friendly, it’s being courteous, it’s listening to you when you come with bill ideas and so forth.

And I recognize the passion and I truly enjoy helping you all, but it’s not me being your friend, it’s me just being your staffer doing a job. I don’t see any of you outside of this job. I did not see Frye-Mueller outside of this job. I did not hang out, hang out or go out to eat with her or anything like that. There is no text messages that would prove that. There is no emails. I have never even seen her in public outside of this building. So I don’t — I don’t know why my friendliness in my job is being construed that I’m her friend [LRC employee, 2023.01.31].

The employee says that Frye-Mueller’s inability to differentiate professional and personal relationships had made her uncomfortable before, but the employee let it slide until Frye-Mueller got in her face about her son:

SENATOR TOBIN: Throughout your time working with Senator Frye-Mueller, have you ever been made to feel uncomfortable before this day that you have in your testimony?

EMPLOYEE: Yes. Would you like me to expand?

SENATOR TOBIN: Mr. Chair. Yes, please.

EMPLOYEE: Senator Frye-Mueller I do believe has crossed boundaries sometimes with me, I suppose in this because she’s believed we were friends, but again, I go back to me trying to do my job and be supportive and get the job done. And at the end of the day, I did allow things — I did allow her to say things that made me uncomfortable. Unfortunately, this time, this time involved my son. I could not let that slide [LRC employee, 2023.01.31].

At that point in the hearing, the employee appears to have become so rattled by the recollection of Senator Frye-Mueller’s unprofessional statements in the employee’s office that the employee’s lawyer, Jack Hieb, asked for a recess so his client could “gather herself”. When the committee reconvened, the employee gave examples of previous line-crossing by Frye-Mueller:

SENATOR TOBIN: Mr. Chair. As far as feeling uncomfortable previously, can you elaborate on what types of specifics made you uncomfortable previously with Senator Frye-Mueller

EMPLOYEE: Mr. Chair. It would be things that didn’t have anything to do with bill drafts, nothing to do with research. It would just be comments, you know, there was — I got married in (year) in Minnesota, and there was a comment that she couldn’t believe I got married in Minnesota, that a specific party controls that state, and she went into some details about that and it crossed the lines of — again, it crossed the lines of any professionalism. It went into my personal life, into my family. Those were things like that that made me uncomfortable [LRC employee, 2023.01.31].

The employee rejects the claim made by Frye-Mueller’s husband Mike that he stepped away from the offensive conversation and says he actively enhanced her discomfort:

SENATOR DUHAMEL: My question is the husband’s involvement. We have been told that the husband left during the, quote, girlie talk. I’m just wondering what was the Senator’s husband’s involvement in this? Was he there during the uncomfortable parts?

EMPLOYEE: He was there standing in front of my doorway, standing in front of my closed door, both her and her husband were standing there. He was nodding in agreement and looking at me through the exchange in a — his smiling made me severely uncomfortable [LRC employee, 2023.01.31].

The employee distinguishes this personally invasive unprofessional behavior from the passionate conversations we might expect from legislators concerning bills in which they are personally invested. That kind of heat, says the employee, she can take, but not comments about her child:

SENATOR LARSON: I want to get a sense. You mentioned that there were other times in the course of your job that you had felt uncomfortable, and I’m trying to get a sense of was this a common occurrence culturally within LRC that staff had to deal with or was it more of like in the sense that was this the straw that broke the camel’s back or was it more of a specific one time or a couple time incident, if there was sort
of something? I don’t know if you have any thoughts about that.

EMPLOYEE: Mr. Chair. In this job, we deal with high tension situations, and people, legislators, staff, we say things, I think we all know that, but, ummm, this conversation went as far as to say that my son would die, my child, that something physically might happen to him based on my parenting decisions. It talked about one of my body parts and sexual acts I would do with my husband, and I don’t believe that’s — I don’t think that’s — that’s not falling into the category of maybe getting a little heated if your bill didn’t go — your hearing didn’t go the right way. That’s beyond what should be happening in this building. I truly believe that crossed a very clear boundary [LRC employee, 2023.01.31].

So why didn’t the employee immediately express her discomfort to Senator Frye-Mueller and her hovering, smiling husband? Because it’s hard to tell the boss to shut up:

SENATOR BOLIN: Thank you, Mr. Chair. At any time during any of these — during the one incident and others, did you ever indicate to the Senator, can you please stop talking about this?

EMPLOYEE: Mr. Chair. Quite frankly, I don’t feel like I can say that I am — that — I don’t feel like I have the ability to say that because of my role as a staffer and that you all have that relationship of being my — I view you all as my bosses, and I don’t believe that if I were to upset you in that way, that you may decide not to work with me or something to that effect. So no, I did not [LRC employee, 2023.01.31].

The accuser says she never wanted this affair to go public, because the LRC’s job is to remain in the background:

SENATOR LARSON: This is kind of a follow-on question to that, but had you, in your mind, any expectation of the amount of attention that this has gotten in the media? How has been your — obviously mentally it’s been extremely difficult. Was it worse than you thought? How did you handle that?

EMPLOYEE: Mr. Chair. It’s been extremely difficult,
for the reason I am legislative staff and I enjoy the background. I do not want the lime light. I leave that to all of you, and you all do it very well. I don’t want to be in the news. That was not my intention. I just would like to take a step back and just say that when I gave my statement to my supervisor in the LRC, my intention was this was not to get in the news. My intention was just to make my supervisors aware that I was uncomfortable, that I thought this matter needed their attention, but in no way, no, I did not want this in the news, no [LRC employee, 2023.01.31].

As far as we know, the LRC employee was back at her job last week, keeping her head down and serving the Legislature and the people. Senator Frye-Mueller was not, not entirely, as she apparently skipped Friday’s committee meetings and Senate floor debate.


  1. Bob Newland 2023-02-06 07:39

    “I leave that to all of you, and you all do it very well.”

    Good one. (Insert sarcasm icon.)

  2. Loren 2023-02-06 09:45

    “Pitch bull roar and grab the lime light.” Of course! We have to look into voter fraud, inspect the contents of one’s underwear before allowing them to use a restroom, female menstrual charting… Geezlouise!

  3. Darrell Reifenrath 2023-02-06 15:28

    “I never got in trouble for something I never said”.
    Calvin Coolidge
    Advice from a Republican she should tale to heart

  4. Mark Anderson 2023-02-06 16:48

    Doesn’t the Republican party want more amateurs to run? You know they ran on that in congress against Clinton, when they won, they dropped that plank. It’s the Newt approach to life. Drop your dying wife marry upward.

  5. Kurt Evans 2023-02-10 00:42

    In the last year, workplace sexual harassment issues have come into the national consciousness more than ever. James Marsh — recently retired director of the South Dakota Division of Labor and Management — spent fourteen years supervising such investigations, and will share recent trends, explain the boundaries between legal and illegal behavior, walk through the state’s investigation process, and leave some time for questions.

  6. M 2023-02-10 05:50

    This harassment to women happens ALL the time. It’s just a big deal now because the bully is a woman.

    Women don’t usually report harassment, or other injuries done to them because they are usually not believed. 80 – 90 percent of offenses ARE NOT reported and when they are, they are not made public. Know how many times a woman gets beat up before someone sees the truth? Know how many rape kits are sitting on shelves across the state?

    This has all been handled wrong.

  7. grudznick 2023-02-10 09:19

    Mr. Evans typed:

    some stuff

    and then he posted an ironic blue link.

    We in the District Numbered 30 are ashamed of Ms. Frye-Mueller, and believe she needs to stand on her own and stop dragging her husband to all her meetings to do her thinking for her.

  8. Kurt Evans 2023-02-10 14:54

    I’d quoted the website of the South Dakota Safety Council:

    In the last year, workplace sexual harassment issues have come into the national consciousness more than ever. James Marsh — recently retired director of the South Dakota Division of Labor and Management — spent fourteen years supervising such investigations, and will share recent trends, explain the boundaries between legal and illegal behavior, walk through the state’s investigation process, and leave some time for questions.

    “grudznick” writes:

    … and then [Mr. Evans] posted an ironic blue link.

    That’s a link to the website from which my quote above was taken. The Mitchell Republic has decided, correctly in my opinion, to run a letter to the editor that includes the name of the public employee behind the accusations. Apparently she’s more than 30 years old, and the James Marsh named in the above quote is her father-in-law.

    From the select committee transcript:

    EMPLOYEE: … My husband’s in-laws were in town and certainly — there was just some other things at play. I wanted to go be with my family, and so with all those things considered, I went home. The first people I actually told that this happened was my husband and my mother-in-law, and that’s where I first conveyed these things and really realized how violated I felt and how disgusted I felt with myself that my body parts would be talked about…

    MR. HIEB: And you talked to your mother-in-law, as I understand it, about reporting this, and then you went to
    the — which supervisor did you go to?

    EMPLOYEE: … Sue Cichos. She’s the deputy director for the LRC.

    Was James Marsh one of the “in-laws” (plural) at the employee’s home when she “first conveyed these things and really realized” how violated she felt?

  9. Kurt Evans 2023-02-10 15:14

    James Marsh and Lee Schoenbeck apparently go way back.

    Senate commerce minutes from January 2004:

    SB 45: revise the composition of the State Electrical Commission.
    Presented by: James Marsh, Dept. of Labor


    Moved by: Schoenbeck
    Second by: Abdallah
    Action: Prevailed by roll call vote.(7-0-0-0)

    Voting Yes: Abdallah, Kelly, Koetzle, Schoenbeck, Sutton (Dan), Bogue, McCracken

  10. Kurt Evans 2023-02-10 15:54

    James Marsh apparently conducted a business ethics course on “Sexual Boundaries” in the workplace for the 2020 virtual state convention of the Alaska Chiropractic Society:

    Ethics Credits | Sexual Boundaries | 1 hour
    This course will provide an update on sexual boundaries – what it means to you as an employer and as a physician – with a refresher on the rules and 10-second takeaways you can use in your clinic or practice.

  11. Kurt Evans 2023-02-10 16:33

    In a footnote from a previous post here at Dakota Free Press, Cory had written:

    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.

    And Jason Ravnsborg just happened to drive all four wheels across the rumble strip without noticing, ten feet outside the white line, at the precise location of a late-night pedestrian who’d taken nearly a month’s worth of the psychotropic drug lorazepam in less than 36 hours.

    If we’re determined to deny the existence of conspiracies, then instead of “The Mount Rushmore State” maybe South Dakota should be called “The Coincidence State”…

    Austin Goss utterly destroys Senator Schoenbeck’s lies here:

  12. Bob Newland 2023-02-10 18:36

    Kurt, Wessington Springs is a great place for you to sit in the darkness and stew.

  13. Kurt Evans 2023-02-11 01:06

    Todd Epp writes for the South Dakota Broadcasters Association:

    Censured Republican Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller from Rapid City will likely remain committee-less this legislative session…

    Republican Senate President Pro Tem Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown said things in the Capitol are working well without her serving on committees.

    “Our committees are fully filled and operating well,” Schoenbeck told SDBA News. “There is no reason to change the arrangement.”

    As the President Pro Tem, Schoenbeck is ultimately responsible for committee assignments.

    Bob Newland writes to me:

    … Wessington Springs is a great place for you to sit in the darkness and stew.

    I’m not stewing, Bob. Left-wing journalist Todd Epp and I are changing the course of history.

  14. Kurt Evans 2023-02-11 01:40

    Bob Mercer writes for KELO-TV:

    A South Dakota political action committee based in Rapid City that sent postcards against her 2022 primary opponent is now behind a round of door to door campaign cards calling for Republican Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller to have full privileges again…

    A PAC known as Not One Step Back paid for printing the cards, according to its chairman and treasurer, Anthony Mirzayants. He described himself Friday as a 23-year-old “grassroots organizer” and told KELOLAND News in an email, “They were not mailed, they were hand distributed by motivated citizens who want to hold these State Senators accountable”…

    Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, in his role as president pro tem of the chamber, stripped Frye-Mueller of her committee assignments after receiving a complaint claiming inappropriate behavior by Frye-Mueller and her husband toward a legislative employee that allegedly violated a Jan. 10, 2023, set of guidelines…

    Schoenbeck said Friday he hadn’t heard of the cards being distributed in his legislative district.

    Mirzayants organized the PAC in mid-2021, listing its purpose as “Defending Liberty and Freedom”…

    The PAC’s pre-2022 general report showed no additional revenue but included a belated listing of independent expenditures totaling $3,239.83 spent on postcards against Frye-Mueller’s challenger in the June primary, Republican Rep. Tim Goodwin.

    The postcards specifically listed Goodwin’s votes on COVID-19 policy, gun rights and spending. Schoenbeck supported Goodwin’s candidacy with a $1,000 contribution from his campaign committee…

    Frye-Mueller defeated Goodwin 2,826-2,791 after a recount.

    It is unclear from campaign-finance reports how much Goodwin actually raised and spent running against Frye-Mueller. In the primary, Goodwin reported raising $49,627.17 and spending $23,390, while Frye-Mueller reported raising $5,461.00 and spending $4,351.45. Goodwin in a pre-general report later showed $55,776.17 of income and spending $53,946. In his termination report, Goodwin showed spending of $55,777.27, including $5,516.28 on attorney fees for the recount.

    That’s some great reporting by Mr. Mercer. The people of South Dakota ought to know.

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