Sexual harassment complaint against Sen. Nate Boulton filed with the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee

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State Sen. Nate Boulton. — official photo

State Sen. Nate Boulton dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination for governor in May, after the Des Moines Register reported three women had accused Boulton of “touching them without their consent,” but rejected calls for him to step down from the Senate. One of those women, Sharon Wegner, has now filed a formal complaint against Boulton with the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee, the Register reported on Monday.

Wegner, a Des Moines attorney and a registered Democrat, told the Register in May that she and Boulton were in an East Village bar on the night of Nov. 20, 2015, when Boulton grabbed her buttocks.

“I turned. I stepped back. I stepped away,” Wegner said. “I moved to the other side of the group of people that we were with. But Nate pursued me the entire rest of the night.” One of Wegner’s friends who was in the bar that night confirmed the accuracy of her account to the Register.

“I don’t want to say it was constant, but it felt like every time he was near me his hand somehow found its way to my rear end,” Wegner recalled.

Boulton never denied Wegner’s account of events, instead saying he didn’t recall it, or the incidents described by the other two women. He suggested that any such behavior may have been the result of binge drinking.

“I cannot apologize enough for the heartache caused by the stories of those who came forward in May,” Boulton said in a written statement he issued in July. “To those individuals, my supporters, my constituents, and my friends and family: I am sorry. I commit to making sure such questions are never raised again about my conduct.”

That statement began with Boulton explaining that he was not giving up his Senate seat. “The responsibilities I have to my constituents and as a dedicated advocate for working families across this state have not yet ended,” he wrote.

Many leading Iowa Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, have called on Boulton to resign.

It’s unclear what the Senate Ethics Committee can do about Wegner’s complaint. Although it has the authority to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against members of the Senate, Boulton was not a member of the Senate when the barroom incident occurred. He was first elected in November 2016, and sworn in as a senator in January 2017.

Ethics complaints against a senator must be filed within three years of an incident occurring, so Tuesday was the deadline for Wegner to file. Neither of the other two women can file complaints against Boulton, because both of those alleged incidents occurred between 2002 and 2005.

Wegner told the Register she understood that the committee might not be able to fully examine Boulton’s actions.

“The Senate rules as they currently exist are ineffective because they don’t account for the types of behavior that myself and other women have experienced, and I think that’s worth noting,” she said. “And it’s worth working with the Senate to create rules that are broader in scope.”

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Boulton has not yet issued any statements regarding the complaint, or responded to requests for comment.

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