Editorials

Allegations against Sen. Paul LeVota bring more disgrace to Missouri government

Missouri Sen. Paul LeVota is at the center of a troubling report.
Missouri Sen. Paul LeVota is at the center of a troubling report. The Associated Press

More reasons to be revolted by freewheeling and inappropriate activities in the Missouri Capitol have emerged in a report centered on a college intern’s complaints against Sen. Paul LeVota, a Democrat from Independence.

In the report — compiled by an outside attorney and made public Wednesday by the Senate Administration Committee — the student says that, after a lobbyist function where alcohol was served, LeVota suggested she stay overnight at his Jefferson City duplex. She slept on the sofa, but LeVota twice proposed they sleep together, the intern said.

LeVota, who is married, told the investigator the woman was never in his duplex. However, she was able to describe details such as the interior layout of the duplex, the type of door lock and the color of LeVota’s sofa.

The intern, who attended Central Missouri State, alleged that LeVota sent her unwanted text messages and made derogatory remarks about her boyfriend. LeVota denied those allegations. Neither party produced text messages.

The student reported she was isolated and barred from interesting projects after refusing LeVota’s alleged sexual advances. She left her internship in early March. In April, the University of Central Missouri notified the Senate it was conducting a Title IX investigation regarding the woman’s complaints.

It is worrisome that the student was able to describe LeVota’s duplex after what she said was an overnight stay. Also, other witnesses said they saw the intern receive text messages from LeVota during non-work hours.

This latest report is another disturbing indication of a reckless culture in Jefferson City that would not be tolerated in any professional workforce.

House Speaker John Diehl, a Republican from Town and Country, Mo., had to resign in May after The Star published a chain of flirtatious text messages he’d had with a college intern.

After Diehl’s resignation, a host of women told Star reporters about unwanted sexual advances by male legislators, staffers and lobbyists dating back decades and continuing today. Some women refuse to take the Capitol elevators for fear of being caught alone with a predatory lawmaker or staffer.

What goes on in the seat of Missouri’s government is disgusting. Rampant consumption of alcohol is commonplace. Too many lawmakers think they can abandon all constraints when they are away from home.

Legislators, who spend a great deal of time lecturing about morality as they debate bills, clearly need outside help to control their own behavior. Leaders of both the House and Senate must set clear standards for professional conduct and insist on training for members.

Stronger ethics laws would help, too. The current lack of any limits on lobbyist gifts suggests to lawmakers that they are entitled to anything they want — including the affections of reluctant young women.

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