Republican Idaho state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger resigned Thursday afternoon, hours after the state’s House Ethics Committee had unanimously recommended he be censured and stripped of the powers of his office without pay.
Von Ehlinger was accused of pursuing inappropriate relationships with women who worked in the state Capitol, including sexual contact with a 19-year-old intern in March. That intern filed a police report accusing von Ehlinger of rape.
“After careful deliberation and prayer, I have determined that I will not be able to effectively represent my constituents in the Idaho House of Representatives and have decided to resign my seat, effective immediately,” von Ehlinger said in a letter read to the House at the beginning of its session Thursday. “I maintain my innocence of any wrongdoing of which I have been accused in this matter, let alone any violation of any law, rule or policy of the state of Idaho or this body.”
The hearing against von Ehlinger had begun with the allegations of the intern, who was referred to in the proceedings as “Jane Doe.” She testified privately to the committee that the legislator had not gotten her consent for sex. A committee report says von Ehlinger has not been charged with a crime.
The Boise Police Department did not return a message from CNN on Thursday asking whether there was an open criminal investigation.
Von Ehlinger acknowledged the sexual encounter, but said it was consensual.
Ethics Committee member John McCrostie, a Democrat, was unmoved by von Ehlinger’s defense, saying it was not the committee’s job to determine whether a sexual assault actually occurred. “Common sense and basic morality dictate that an elected representative should not entertain a relationship with a student intern, regardless of who initiated the relationship,” McCrostie told the committee Thursday.
Testimony to the committee indicated that von Ehlinger had propositioned for dates at least four women who worked on the Capitol grounds — including an assistant clerk of the House and a security guard — despite being warned by other legislators that it was inappropriate for him to date staffers.
“His behavior has poisoned the reputation of all of us and tarnished and discredited other elected officials who serve,” said Ethics Committee member Wendy Horman, a Republican.
Before the resignation was announced, Republican Gov. Brad Little released a statement agreeing with the vote of the Ethics Committee.
“I applaud Jane Doe and the other brave women for their courage in telling their stories and participating in this process to hold Representative Aaron von Ehlinger accountable for his deeply damaging and shameful actions,” the governor said.
Von Ehlinger declined to testify publicly to the committee, instead choosing to provide statements that he said had been given while under a polygraph.
His attorney, Edward Dindinger, did not return requests for comment from CNN on Thursday evening.