TIM BOMMEL/HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS
Rep. Wiley Price IV
An unnamed legislative aide to Missouri Democrat Rep. Wiley Price IV testified to a state ethics board earlier this year that the lawmaker had bragged about having sex with an intern — and when the aide reported Price's behavior, she claimed that he responded with threats and harassment.
Details of the assistant's testimony were revealed this week in a report
issued by the legislature's House Ethics Committee, which took up the case in February after the legislative assistant reported Price's comments to House administrative staff.
Identified only as "Witness 1," the aide claimed to investigators that on January 23 Price had told her that "he had sex with [the intern] the night before."
Apparently, Price became aware that his words had sparked an official investigation. According to the aide, Price later urged her to recant her statements to House officials and to instead claim, "I misspoke and that he didn't do anything and that it was all wrong."
Witness 1's testimony alleged that Price's requests soon became threats. She claimed Price began harassing her, which included telling her that she had "messed up" in reporting the incident because the sex with the intern was consensual and, therefore, there was "nothing wrong" with what he did.
In another example, the aide described Price pressuring her to change her story: "Where I come from, people die for doing shit like this," the lawmaker allegedly told her.
She'd later testify that the conversation left her feeling afraid of Price.
MISSOURI ETHICS COMMISSION
A summary of Witness 1's testimony details Price's alleged statements about sex with an intern.
But according to the report issued by the ethics panel this week, the issue of Price's possible sexual relationship with a House intern was never conclusively resolved — in a separate interview with an investigator, both Price and the intern maintained they had no sexual or romantic relationship. The intern denied ever having Price's phone number, and the lawmaker similarly claimed "he does not have and has never had" the intern's phone number.
When the House obtained those phone records through a subpoena, they told a different story: In reality, the two had exchanged seven phone calls and 26 texts between January 22 — the date of the purported sex — and January 27, when Witness 1 reported her concerns to the House administration.
On September 15, Price appeared before the ethics panel to testify. According to the report, he changed his story after being presented with the subpoenaed phone records, and explained that he'd only communicated with the intern "to see if Witness 1 had made it home safely from a party the three of them attended on the night in question."
In his defense, Price claimed that Witness 1 had fabricated the incident in retaliation for his decision to fire her. However, the report notes that Price had previously told an investigator that he had no serious issues with Witness 1 as an employee.
The intern, who did not work in Price's office, refused to testify to the ethics committee.
In the end, the rulings by the ethics panel did not directly punish Price for having a sexual relationship with an intern, but rather focused on his apparent efforts at coverup: The committee found the lawmaker had "misled" an investigator by denying having phone contact with the intern and afterward committed perjury when he testified to those same denials during the ethics committee meeting in September.
Price had "intimidated and harassed" his former legislative aide, the committee concluded; the report added that his behavior "compromised the ability of the House to provide a respectful, professional work environment." The aide who reported Price has since been transferred to a different office.
At this point, the committee has recommended a raft of possible punishments against Price, including a ban on having any future interns and his removal from all committee assignments. The committee also recommended Price pay $22,494 to cover the cost of the investigation.
Losing committee assignments would devastate Price's ability to continue his normal activities as a lawmaker, but in remarks to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Thursday
, he said that he won't be resigning.
“I hate that I’m in the middle of this,” Price said.
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at [email protected]
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