Government

Ethics committee tosses complaint against Sen. Nate Boulton

Accuser calls for accountability rules to be expanded beyond Capitol

Sharon Wegner, a Des Moines lawyer, speaks to reporters Thursday after the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee dismissed her complaint against Sen. Nate Boulton at the Iowa Capitol. (Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee)
Sharon Wegner, a Des Moines lawyer, speaks to reporters Thursday after the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee dismissed her complaint against Sen. Nate Boulton at the Iowa Capitol. (Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee)
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DES MOINES — The woman who said Sen. Nate Boulton sexually harassed her in 2015 said she understands why a state ethics committee Thursday dismissed her complaint against him.

But Sharon Wegner said lawmakers should consider expanding the scope of the committee’s authority to be able to hold legislators accountable when they are not in the Iowa Capitol.

On Thursday, the six-member Iowa Senate Ethics Committee voted unanimously to dismiss Wegner’s complaint against Boulton, a Des Moines Democrat and former gubernatorial candidate.

Wegner, a Des Moines lawyer, asserted Boulton touched her inappropriately at a social event in 2015 before he was elected. Boulton, also a lawyer, said he does not remember such an incident, possibly because of what he has called excessive alcohol use.

Ethics committee Chairman Jerry Behn recommended the dismissal because the alleged incident occurred before Boulton was elected to the Senate, and the Senate’s ethics code does not cover individuals before their election.

“Procedurally, I believe it is the correct determination that the committee made today,” Wegner told reporters after the brief committee meeting. “But I believe that it’s important for people to know, to realize, that the ethics rules don’t apply generally to a sitting representative when they’re not here at the Capitol. And I believe that’s something that should change.”

Boulton did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Sen. Janet Petersen, of Des Moines, leader of the Senate Democrats, praised women who came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Boulton.

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The accounts of three women, including Wegner, were detailed in an article in May in the Des Moines Register. Boulton abandoned his campaign for governor days before the Democratic primary.

Peterson repeated her call for Boulton to resign from the Senate.

“I commend the women who shared their detailed and compelling concerns about Sen. Boulton’s behavior,” she said in a statement. “When women have the courage to come forward to blow the whistle about being harassed, we need to show them there is a pathway to justice.”

Boulton has said he plans to complete his term in the Iowa Senate. He has two years remaining on his four-year term.

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