The Missouri Senate will look more closely into allegations that Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, made sexual advances toward female interns.
LeVota said he’ll cooperate fully, but he also continued to flatly deny the allegations and suggested the intensely partisan atmosphere at the state Capitol is at the root of the issue.
“This has become the latest political witch hunt,” he said Thursday.
Some have called for LeVota to resign, and Gov. Jay Nixon released a statement Thursday saying the allegations are “deeply troubling and raise serious questions about his ability to continue to serve his constituents.”
LeVota acknowledged that and said he’s also gotten calls of support from many friends. He said his main concern is representation for his constituents in the 11th District, which includes most of Independence, a slice of the east side of Kansas City and the northeast part of Jackson County.
Asked if he’s considered resigning, LeVota said, “I’m thinking about all kinds of things.” At this point, he said Thursday, he’s taking things one day at a time.
In a written statement, LeVota added, “I agree that this distraction could be problematic and my only concern today is the constituents of my district and their representation.”
Other fellow Democrats also spoke out. Five elected officials – Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, Jackson County Legislator Crystal Williams, state Sen. Jill Schupp of Creve Coeur, state Rep. Stacey Newman of St. Louis and St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce – urged the General Assembly to “take all appropriate actions against any official responsible for sexual harassment” and said, “Sen. LeVota must do what is needed to restore the public’s trust.”
On Wednesday, the Senate released a report by an outside attorney who looked into allegations by a University of Central Missouri student, who abruptly quit two months into an internship in LeVota’s office early this year.
She said LeVota, 47, sent her inappropriate text messages, that she spent one evening sleeping on the couch in his Jefferson City duplex, that twice that evening he suggested they have sex, and that he later retaliated against her in the workplace.
LeVota has denied all of that.
The versions of events as told by LeVota and the UCM intern are directly at odds, and the report recounts those but offers no conclusions about which one is telling the truth. LeVota said the report clearly shows no proof of any inappropriate action on his part.
“There’s no proof of wrongdoing, because there was no wrongdoing,” he said Wednesday.
Also Wednesday, that student came forward publicly, reiterating her story, as did another former LeVota intern, who described texts from LeVota and an invitation to come to his apartment for drinks. LeVota denied all of that as well. The office of Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Peters, indicated the second intern’s statements constituted the new information coming to light and triggering the need for the Ethics Committee to step in.
No timeline for a hearing by the Ethics Committee was announced Thursday.
In his prepared statement, LeVota said he’s happy that Dempsey referred the issue to the Ethics Committee, and he said “there is a legal process to fairly and thoroughly review issues in the Senate instead of a rush to call for resignation.” He added, “The Missouri Senate is the jurisdictional organization that decides on the eligibility of its members, not outside parties making knee-jerk reactions to gain political points.”
LeVota on Thursday was removed from the Ethics Committee, though he characterized it as a resignation on his part, saying that it was appropriate that he not be on the committee as it looked into the allegations.
Sen. Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis and the minority floor leader, announced LeVota’s removal from the Ethics Committee after Dempsey requested that.
LeVota said he agreed with the move.
“He (Keaveny) called me and talked about it,” LeVota said.