SD Senate Select Committee to call for formal reprimand of Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Senate Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion, looking into allegations against Senator Julie Frye-Mueller (R-Dist.30), is leaning toward a formal reprimand. The allegations stem from a meeting between a Legislative Research Council (LRC) staff member, Sen. Frye-Mueller, and Michael Mueller, the Senator’s husband.

What did the SD Senate Select Committee decide?

After hearing testimony from the three parties, the SD Senate Select Committee voted unanimously to have the LRC staff draft a report outlining three things:

  1. To censure Sen. Frye-Mueller’s conduct.
  2. To limit Sen. Frye-Mueller’s access to the LRC office and staff for the reminder of the 2023 Legislative Session.
  3. To have Sen. Frye-Mueller’s suspension lifted immediately.

How did it all begin?

The SD Senate Select Committee convened Tuesday evening at 4:00 p.m. MT. The committee called itself to order and then immediately went into executive session.

During the approximately 30-minute executive session, the committee heard from the state employee who filed the complaint against Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller. The state employee and her legal counsel, Sen. Frye-Mueller and her legal counsel, and the Senators were allowed to attend the executive session, but it was not open for the public to see.

Photos from the South Dakota Senate Select Committee Meeting:

Former Republican State Representative Steven Haugaard, who is representing Sen. Frye-Mueller as her attorney, objected to the nature of the hearing, which he called a “24-hour slam dunk” in contrast to a typical criminal trial in a state court which allows time for the defense to go through a discovery and evidence gathering process.

“This senator deserves the respect of the law, and the constitution, and the process. I don’t think there’s anywhere in the country that would say that this process is appropriate. We have not had the opportunity to explore things or examine witnesses or go forward with enough information so the committee can make an adequate decision about the gravity of these circumstances,” Haugaard said.

What does the complaint against Sen. Frye-Mueller say?

Frye Mueller Complaint

What does Sen. Frye-Mueller say happened?

After a brief recess, Frye-Mueller testified, alleging that the comments made to the staffer were innocuous and that the legislature was using a “dead cat strategy,” or intentionally making shocking announcements to divert media attention from themselves.

“I never got called until 12:30 yesterday from you, and you guys are honestly trying to rush this through like it’s hot potatoes? I’ve been here for seven years. I know all the things that have happened in this Capitol that have not been rushed through, that have been pushed under the table, and I have actually been verbally attacked by a senator who was in this room on November 9 of 2021 and I contacted the LRC staff head and what I was told was ‘It’s your choice,’ but the people that were doing this to me were the people who would be making the decisions and setting up the committees.”

She also described the statement from the staffer as “exaggerated beyond belief.”

“The majority of the alleged statement we received has inaccuracies in it. Other than the discussion of our license plate bills, the majority of the statement is exaggerated beyond belief by anyone who knows me or my husband. For the record, finger-pointing has never been part of my body language, and that was mentioned in there twice,” Sen. Frye-Mueller said.

What does Michael Mueller, Sen. Frye-Mueller’s husband, say happened?

Sen. Frye-Mueller’s husband, Michael Mueller in his testimony described the interactions with the staffer as “cordial,” and said there was “no indication” from the staffer’s body language that she was uncomfortable with the discussion. In response to a question from the committee, Mueller alleged that it was the staffer who had initiated the discussion of breastfeeding, rather than Sen. Frye-Mueller.

What’s Next?

The SD Senate Select Committee will reconvene on Wednesday, February 1 at 11:00 a.m. MT. The committee will need to vote to approve the drafted report. If the report is approved, the Committee’s recommendations will move to the Senate Floor for a final vote.

If you would like to know more about how this story developed, here are previous NC1 stories:

Federal judge denies Sen. Frye-Mueller’s motion to stop proceedings against her

Senator Julie Frye-Mueller files lawsuit over Senate suspension

“Did you vaccinate?” Senate releases complaint against Senator Julie Frye-Mueller

Categories: Local News, Politics & Elections, South Dakota News