PIERRE, S.D. — A former South Dakota lobbyist is trying to block an ex-legislator from receiving a new state appointment, alleging he made sexually inappropriate comments to her in 2012.
Tiffany Campbell, a former American Civil Liberties Union lobbyist, emailed every South Dakota senator this month urging them to block the appointment of Gene Abdallah to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. Abdallah has forcefully denied the allegation.
Campbell told the Argus Leader that she was discussing legislation with Abdallah at a bar frequented by lobbyists and lawmakers when he asked to go to restroom with her to watch her.
Abdallah, who was a Republican representing Sioux Falls’ District 10 at the time, said he never met Campbell. Abdallah accused Campbell of using “sleazy and gutter politics” for personal gain, saying she could “go to hell.”
Campbell said she knew coming forward about the incident would likely bring negative attention for her.
“Why would anyone want to do this? Why would anyone want to be publicly known as that person?” Campbell said. “To think that he’s going to be appointed to the parole board, I just couldn’t stay quiet anymore.”
Campbell said she reported the incident in 2012 to the state House speaker but was told it couldn’t be investigated because it happened outside the Capitol. Campbell said felt she had to “tread lightly” because she had three pieces of legislation that session, so she didn’t take her concern any further.
Then-House Speaker Val Rausch said he recalls talking with Campbell that year but couldn’t remember details of the discussion.
“I know Tiffany, and I recall she came into my office, but I couldn’t tell you what we talked about,” he said. “I don’t remember any reports to me of any sexual harassment.”
A few lawmakers said in email replies shared with the newspaper that they would oppose Abdallah’s appointment to the parole board, which must be confirmed by the Senate.
Attorney General Marty Jackley said he’s sticking by Abdallah’s appointment.
“If Senator Abdallah made such a comment, it would be inappropriate,” Jackley said. “However, Senator Abdallah has denied making the comment.”
This story has been corrected to show that the ex-lawmaker’s last name is Abdallah, not Abadallah.
Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com