PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — State senators voted 31-1 on Tuesday to have South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley’s office defend Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck in a federal lawsuit brought by Republican Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller over her suspension.
“The bottom line is, this saves the taxpayer money,” Senate Republican leader Casey Crabtree said.
Otherwise, according to Crabtree, the Legislative Research Council would need to hire outside legal counsel.
Senators also rejected for the second day in a row an attempt by Republican Sen. Tom Pischke to have Frye-Mueller’s privileges reinstated.
Schoenbeck, the Senate president pro tem, took away Frye-Mueller’s committee assignments on January 25. The Senate voted to suspend her privileges on January 26.
A committee on discipline and expulsion was appointed Monday. The panel met briefly that evening. It meets again Tuesday evening and will take testimony behind closed doors from the LRC staff member who complained about allegedly harassing behavior toward her by Frye-Mueller and her husband, Mike Mueller, in her office on Jan. 24.
Frye-Mueller and her attorney, former Rep. Steve Haugaard, can be present for the testimony. Any senator also can attend. A redacted transcript will be publicly released later.
Pischke said Tuesday he might make the reinstatement motion every day. He said a resolution from Fall River County Republicans argues that they don’t have a vote in the Senate during Frye-Mueller’s suspension. “These people have been disenfranchised,” Pischke said.
But Republican Sen. Erin Tobin said legislators must defend the LRC staff. She said her legislative district lost a bill because the LRC fell behind and couldn’t get to her request. “Do you want that precedent to continue?” she asked.
Republican Sen. David Wheeler chairs the special committee. He said it’s moving as quickly as possible while observing due process and the LRC staff must feel safe.
Pischke’s motion failed on a vote of 11-22. Voting to reinstate Frye-Mueller were Arch Beal, Jessica Castleberry, Mike Diedrich, Jean Hunhoff, Joshua Klumb, Al Novstrup, John Wiik, Dean Wink, Larry Zikmund, Brent Hoffman and Pischke.