MADISON, S.D. (KELO) — A Madison Lawmaker is under investigation after he admitting to having sexual relationships with legislative interns.
Representative Mathew Wollmann from Madison is serving his second term in Pierre. He admits to having sexual contact with two interns, one during the 2015 session and one during the 2016 session, both over the age of 21. He says there were a lot of rumors about what might of happened, so he says he wanted to speak out about what he says actually happened.
“It’s an obvious embarrassment,” Wollmann said.
On Wednesday, Mathew Wollmann went to Republican Leadership and talked about his sexual relations with interns. He says he was hearing some rumors about him doing things that he would never imagine doing, so he wanted to share his story.
“I knew this was the moment where I had to take into consideration what’s happening and come forward and tell exactly what happened,” Wollmann said.
House Leaders moved to put together a committee to investigate Wollmann. Recently, a committee voted down a proposed rule change that would have prohibited sexual contact between lawmakers and interns or pages. Under the legislative rule book, lawmakers have to avoid sexual harassment in the workplace. Wollmann says the relationships were consensual.
“They were what I would say is long standing friendships that maybe turned into more. I could pick up the phone today and still call these individuals and have a good conversation and really there’s no question in my mind that I didn’t hurt them. No question in mind that I didn’t hurt them,” Wollmann said.
When Wollmann was sworn into the legislature in 2015, he was the youngest lawmaker in Pierre. He said he felt more comfortable talking with interns because they were closer in age to him then most of the other lawmakers.
“There are many that would think, ‘I don’t care what Mathew Wollman does at the age of 24 and 25 with consenting adults. That he could be sitting in a college class with,’ but then there are others, that say, ‘Rules are rules and legislators are held at a different standard,’ and I understand both,” Wollmann said.
As the investigation gets underway, Wollmann says he takes responsibility for his actions and says it’s a learning experience. He also believes it won’t affect his ability as a legislator moving forward.
House Majority Leader Lee Qualm says that the committee is made up of 9 Members – 5 Republicans and 4 Democrats. They will be announced during the session Wednesday. Qualm says they will review the evidence of the situation, and have four potential options with Wollmann: censure, exonerate, expel, or discipline.