A Republican representative has called for an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations made against one of her Democratic colleagues.
Rep. Paula Sutton, R-Warren, has called for the Maine House Ethics Committee to convene for the first time since 2009 to investigate allegations against Rep. Dillon Bates, D-Westbrook.
Bates has been at the center of controversy since reports last week alleged that he had sexual or romantic relationships with high school girls while he was their teacher or coach. Bates has denied the allegations and refused to resign his seat in the Legislature despite being asked to do so by House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport. He is not seeking re-election.
Sutton called the allegations “very serious” and said the House has a responsibility to provide Bates with due process.
“Rep. Bates deserves a fair and proper hearing in light of the speaker’s demand that he resign,” Sutton said in a news release Wednesday.
Attorney Walter McKee, who represents Bates in this matter, declined to comment.
The House Ethics Committee, composed of four Democrats and four Republicans, is chaired by Rep. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth. House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, who is a member of the committee, said not conducting the investigation would erode the public’s trust in the House of Representatives.
The speaker has the authority to convene the committee, though any member of the House can sponsor an order to do so. In March 2017, after Gideon refused to convene the committee to investigate Republican allegations that Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono, improperly profited from working on a referendum campaign, Republicans sponsored such an order that failed, 77-64.
Gideon said in a statement Wednesday that Sutton’s order will be heard and voted on by the House when it returns during the current special session.
The committee convened in 2009 at the request of then-Speaker Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, to investigate allegations that then-Rep. Richard Blanchard, D-Old Town, attempted to use his position to avoid a citation for illegal fireworks. That investigation found Blanchard’s behavior “unbecoming to a state representative” but cleared him of improperly using his position to influence law enforcement officers.
The Legislature is in the midst of a special session, but the House has not convened since July 9, and there appears to be no scheduled date for legislators to return.
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.