PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Senate has censured one of its own.
Lawmakers voted to approve the recommendation from the Senate Select Committee to censure Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller, who the committee found engaged in harassment.
A staff member for the Legislative Research Council has accused her of unprofessional conduct, alleging that Frye-Mueller said the staffer’s vaccinated baby “could get down syndrome, or autism.” The staffer has also alleged that Frye-Mueller claimed vaccines will be fatal for the baby.
Frye-Mueller denies discussing Down Syndrome, autism or death with the staffer. She told the committee Tuesday night that she does not believe vaccines kill babies.
Sen. David Wheeler shared the details of the report put together by the Senate Select Committee with the full Senate before a vote on the matter.
A censure is an official reprimand, and its adoption by the Senate required support from 21 of the 35 senators. The final vote was 33-1, with only Sen. Tom Pischke voting against the motion.
While Frye-Mueller was reinstated as a state Senator, she will have to limit her interaction and contact with staff of the Legislative Research Council, including interns and pages, to the director or the director’s designees.
Just after 5 p.m. CT, Frye-Mueller sent out a statement regarding recent events. Read that in full below:
I am thankful to rightfully return to the South Dakota Senate to represent the citizens of District 30. The action of this body in suspending the Rules of the Senate to immediately suspend a member WITHOUT DUE PROCESS on an accusation alone without evidence is simply unjust. The consequence of these actions were to silence the voices of over 25,000 people. Now deadlines for some legislative action have passed without any obvious remedy.Julie Frye-Mueller
If lawmakers can silence me without any due process and by ignoring the law, or suspending the rules and laws we instituted, why do we make such laws? Their failure to respond to my continued requests clearly appears to be an orchestrated attempt to obstruct my ability to defend myself and is politically motivated. We were given only 27 hours to even know what was being claimed and to coordinate legal counsel and witnesses.
As I said in my sworn testimony, the language contained in the staff person’s statement was shocking and filthy and is not what I said or conveyed. That aspect of the conversation was entirely fabricated. The permanent damage done to my reputation and that of my family is a stain that will not go away.
The actions of these Senators will likely serve as a deterrent to anyone who might consider public service. In fact, I understand that there is already a Bill (SB 197) being submitted as, what appears to be, additional retribution. When will the attacks end?
Finally, the actions of the Senate are absolutely unprecedented. However, I will do all that I can to continue to be an advocate for District 30 and the people of South Dakota. I am grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support for me and my family in the midst of this attack. God bless you all.