State Sen. Dan Sutton, D-Flandreau, sent a letter to Gov. Rounds resigning from office. The resignation is only for the rest of his current term. Sutton will return for the new legislative session in January. He was re-elected last week with 57 percent of the vote.
Dan Sutton's lawyer Patrick Duffy, says the resignation is a move to avoid a special session. Leaders from both parties asked for the session to investigate allegations that Sutton acted inappropriately with a teenage page.
Duffy says there should not be a hearing before a lame duck Senate led by lawmakers who won't be returning to Pierre next year.
"This special session will not happen and my client will be there in 2007 to take the oath," Duffy says. "At that point hopefully cooler heads will prevail and maybe just maybe, all of the menace behind these charges will reveal itself in an indictment and my client welcomes that. Bring it on."
The allegations against Sen. Sutton were brought to light just two weeks before the election by the legislative page's father. He accuses Sutton of groping his son in a hotel room.
South Dakota's Attorney General Larry Long confirms there is an investigation into the allegations against Sutton. Long says he received the complaint in March but will not say if the investigation is completed or if there will be any charges filed.
Sen. Ed Olson, R-Mitchell, is the chairman of executive board that oversees all legislative activity when the Senate is not in session. Olson says he expected Sutton's resignation and says that means there's no point in holding a special session. Olson says he's not sure what will happen next and admits there are more questions than answers.
"What do we do in January when Sen. Sutton, who was recently re-elected and is the subject of this alleged inappropriate behavior, is back in the same position working with interns and pages?"
Olson says the Senate has constitutional authority to discipline members regardless of whether there was criminal behavior or not. Olson says this is the first time something like this has come before the Senate. He says rules are being written as they go along. But Olson says doing nothing next year is not an option.
"I think we need to at least find our if there was inappropriate behavior," Olson says. "We don't have criminal authority. We have supoena, contempt, and citations available to us. But I can say for now, we at least bought time."
Olson says lawmakers will use that time to review the rules that govern the legislative page and intern program.
Sen. Sutton is not talking publicly about the allegations against him. His lawyer, Patrick Duffy, says Sutton did nothing wrong.
"My client right now, is resigned and isn't going to take a position on anything until somebody shows him a criminal complaint or indictment. At that point his due process rights will be intact," says Sutton.
Duffy says the legislative investigation was orchestrated by his client's political rivals. But those Republican leaders didn't run for re-election and next year they won't be in charge of the state Senate.