Frye-Mueller censured but retains Senate seat

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 2:26 PM MST
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PIERRE, S.D. (SDBA) - The South Dakota Senate Wednesday afternoon voted 33 to 1 to censure and reinstate Republican Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller.

Frye-Mueller, who represents Rapid City, is also restricted in working with Legislative Research Council staff and legislative interns and pages for the remainder of the session. To access LRC services, she’ll need to contact the director of the LRC or their designate.

An LRC employee, a new mother, said that she had a concerning conversation with Frye-Mueller and her husband Mike, a lobbyist, last week in the LRC offices. The employee said Sen. Frye-Mueller engaged in an inappropriate conversation about breastfeeding and vaccinating her baby.

In adopting the report to discipline the senator, Sen. David Wheeler of Watertown said the body needed to take these steps to protect the employee, the LRC, and the body’s integrity.

“Your conduct must be beyond reproach,” Wheeler said in how senators must treat LRC staff. “When we cross the line, there must be accountability,” he explained.

Republican Sen. Tom Pischke of Dell Rapids, the only member to vote against censure, said he did not think Frye-Mueller received appropriate due process. He also said there is more to find out about the matter.

“I’d make this speech for anyone of you,” Pischke said. I don’t agree she (Frye-Mueller) engaged in harassment. It is not about party lines or ideology, but about this chamber.

Following the vote, Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden, President of the Senate, said he asked the Sergeant at Arms to contact Frye-Mueller so that she could return to the body.

There is still a pending federal lawsuit arising from the incident against Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, President Pro Tem of the Senate in his official role, filed by Frye-Mueller.