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House pursuing censure of Wiley Price for alleged ‘inappropriate relationship’ with intern

  

House Ethics Committee report says Price also ‘intimidated’ a staff member for reporting the alleged relationship 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — House leadership said it will pursue censure of Rep. Wiley Price after the Ethics Committee released a report accusing the St. Louis Democrat of engaging in an “inappropriate relationship” with an intern. 

The report also said Price “intimidated and threatened” a staff member for reporting the alleged relationship. 

“The Committee finds that [Price’s] actions involving both the intern and his legislator assistant, and his conduct before this Committee during its investigation, to constitute ethical misconduct and conduct unbecoming of a state legislator of sufficient severity to warrant censure,” the report said. 

Price told The Missouri Times he would not resign his House seat and was adamant he would be at the opening of the next legislative session in January. 

The bipartisan Ethics Committee met behind closed doors Tuesday afternoon. The report released Wednesday said Price committed perjury before the Ethics Committee, misled the investigator, obstructed the investigation, and “intimidated and threatened his legislator assistant in retaliation for performing her duties as a mandated reporter.” It also said Price’s conduct “has compromised the ability of the House to provide a respectful, professional work environment.” 

It recommended censure by the 100th and 101st General Assembly, payment of nearly $22,500 for costs related to the investigation, and an inability to hold a leadership position. It also recommended Price be stripped from any committee assignments or supervision over an intern. Legislative employees assigned to Price should be under the direct supervision of the House chief clerk, the report suggested. 

The committee requested Price resign by 1 p.m. Wednesday, but he “failed to meet this deadline,” the report said. 

In a joint statement, House leadership said it would pursue the committee’s censure recommendation. 

“We appreciate the fair and thorough investigation conducted by the members of our bipartisan House Ethics Committee, and stand by the findings included in their report. The committee worked diligently using the process put in place under House Speaker Todd Richardson that was designed to prevent and resolve inappropriate behavior and improve the culture in the Capitol,” Speaker Elijah Haahr, Speaker-Designee Rob Vescovo, Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, and incoming Majority Floor Leader Dean Plocher said. 

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said “the next step will be for the full House to evaluate the evidence and determine the appropriate action.”

“We expect that process to be conducted in a swift and fair manner when the legislature reconvenes in January,” Quade said.

Price was first elected to the legislature in 2018 to represent HD 84, which encompasses part of St. Louis. He ran unopposed for re-election this year and worked in marketing prior to his election to the House.

According to the report, the intern was not working for Price or anyone else involved in the matter. The report also does not include any allegations of non-consensual relations. 

According to the report, House administrative staff received a verbal report of a potential policy violation on Jan. 27. The chief clerk then retained outside counsel to investigate the complaint and interview Price, the intern, the legislative assistant, and another state representative.

The legislative assistant told investigators Price “began harassing her upon learning that she had made the report to House staff as a mandated reporter,” the report said. 

The House Ethics Committee obtained phone records between Price and the intern through a subpoena showing the two had communicated, despite what was told to the investigator and the committee under oath. 

The report also alleged a cell phone belonging to Price’s counsel was found on a witness stand recording during testimony given in September. The phone was left on the stand and still recording once Price and counsel had left the room and would have continued to record private deliberations among committee members, according to the report. The phone was returned to its owner after the audio file had been deleted. 

“Counsel was not given permission to make a recording, and was in direct violation of House rules providing for the confidentiality of the Committee proceedings,” the report said. 

The report was adopted unanimously by Reps. J. Eggleston, Kip Kendrick, Sonya Anderson, Allen Andrews, Jerome Barnes, Richard Brown, Mark Ellebracht, Rick Francis, Steve Lynch, and Martha Stevens. 

This story has been updated.