Rep. Aaron Von Ehlinger Resigns Following Blistering Ethics Inquiry
Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger (R-Lewiston) has resigned following a scathing two-day hearing by the House ethics committee over allegations he raped a 19-year-old intern.
“I have determined that I will not be able to effectively represent my constituents in the Idaho House of Representatives,” von Ehlinger wrote in his resignation letter.
He called the committee’s recommendation “expulsion in all but name.” The committee Thursday unanimously recommended suspending von Ehlinger through 2022 without pay.
Rep. Wendy Horman (R-Idaho Falls), who made the motion, said the five members of the committee would also unanimously support expelling Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger (R-Lewiston) from the House permanently.
“There is no house rule against poisoning another person, yet his behavior has poisoned the reputation of all of us and tarnished and discredited other elected officials who serve,” Horman said.
At issue wasn’t whether the victim, who Boise State Public Radio isn’t identifying, consented to performing oral sex on von Ehlinger in March after the two went to dinner. Instead, the committee solely considered whether they found his conduct “unbecoming” of a member of the House.
Von Ehlinger and his attorney, Edward Dindinger, have repeatedly said the encounter was consensual and that there’s no House policy forbidding lawmakers from dating staff members.
“Common sense and basic morality dictates that an elected representative should not entertain a relationship with a student intern regardless of who initiated the relationship,” said Rep. John McCrostie (D-Garden City).
Von Ehlinger is 38, while the intern is a 19-year-old.
House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) and two other members of GOP leadership said Wednesday that dating staffers is a clear line that shouldn’t be crossed, regardless of any formal policy.
Censuring von Ehlinger would have needed a simple majority vote by the full House, while an expulsion would have required two-thirds support of the body.
Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa) described von Ehlinger’s behavior as a “predatory pattern.”
A House staffer testified Wednesday von Ehlinger asked her on a date in January, despite taking two rounds of respectful workplace training. A lobbyist went to House Caucus Chair Megan Blanksma (R-Hammett) earlier this year, telling her she felt uncomfortable around von Ehlinger after two encounters with him.
Crane said the committee also learned for the first time Wednesday that a brief relationship with a security guard at the capitol was sexual. When asked if the sex was consensual, the woman testified “uncomfortably, I guess.”
Crane said the similarities between that encounter and the alleged rape “were almost identical.”
“Go out to dinner, come back to my apartment and you serve me,” Crane said.
Gov. Brad Little issued a statement shortly after the hearing saying he supported expulsion. Little called von Ehlinger’s actions “deeply damaging and shameful.”
“Representative von Ehlinger’s inappropriate and alarming actions stand in opposition to the values and behavior state elected officials must uphold,” Little said.
“Being elected by the people and serving in a legislative body carries immense weight and responsibility to act with dignity, civility, and integrity at all times.”
Speaker Bedke issued a statement praising the findings of the ethics committee, commending the victim for her courage to speak out and condemning von Ehlinger.
"His behavior is something we will not tolerate and casts a shadow over the good work done in the Idaho Statehouse," Bedke said.
At no time during the roughly hour-long hearing did von Ehlinger or his attorney speak. They quickly left the room through a back door after the committee adjourned.
Von Ehlinger has not been criminally charged, though there’s an ongoing investigation by Boise Police.
The local legislative committee for Lewis and Nez Perce counties must nominate up to three people to replace von Ehlinger within 15 days for Gov. Little to choose from to serve out the rest of the term through 2022.
Voters in that district will be able to elect a new representative next fall.
Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.
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