State Watch

Ethics committee finds probable cause in sexual misconduct allegation against Idaho lawmaker

An Idaho ethics committee has ruled there was probable cause in a sexual misconduct allegation leveled against a state lawmaker in March. 

The Idaho state House's Ethics and House Policy Committee announced Friday it has unanimously ruled there was probable cause in the claim against state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger (R). The panel will investigate the allegation and hold a public hearing.

The accusation against von Ehlinger was first reported Friday after he announced he was facing a claim of "unconsented sexual contact" by a volunteer on his staff. He has denied any wrongdoing. 

The volunteer is accusing the lawmaker of forcing her to perform oral sex on him despite her saying that she did not want to. She later told authorities she was frightened to be around von Ehlinger.

The volunteer reported her claims to Assistant Sergeant at Arms Kim Blackburn, who reported it to the Boise Police Department for a criminal investigation at the volunteer's request. The ethics complaint in front of the state House committee alleges that von Ehlinger "used his position as a member of the House of Representatives to initiate a sexual encounter." 

State House leaders were briefed on the allegations in early March.

"This episode is an embarrassment to me, but I assure my constituents in Nez Perce and Lewis counties that I have not broken any laws or legislative rules, nor have I violated the concepts of appropriate social conduct," von Ehlinger said in a press release. 

The ethics panel will have 30 days after a public hearing to make a recommendation as to a punishment or expulsion. Should four out of its five members vote to expel, that decision ultimately must be backed up by two-thirds of the state House for von Ehlinger to lose his seat.

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