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House GOP Leaders Say Prompt Attention Was Given To Johnson-DiSanto Incident

Kealey Bultena

Republican leadership in the South Dakota House of Representatives say prompt attention was given to the concerns of Representative Lynne DiSanto following an incident that occurred last week.

Representative David Johnson approached DiSanto on the house floor last Wednesday after representatives adjourned. Witnesses say the situation escalated, and DiSanto says she feared for her safety.

When the situation escalated last week on the house floor between Representatives Johnson and DiSanto over a bill from earlier that day, State Representative Lee Qualm interjected and says he told them to break it up.

Qualm says he didn’t hear the alleged words that Representative Johnson said to Representative DiSanto. He says others involved in the incident didn’t hear those words, either.

The house formed an investigative committee almost two days after the incident.

Qualm says leadership started talking to both representatives right away.

“We talked with them and told them what their options were and told Representative DiSanto it’s up to you what you do with this," Qualm says. "We’re not going to file anything, it’s up to you have to make that decision. You’re the one, if you feel like you need to do something. Representative Kaiser and Representative May decided to do that the next day, within a very short time we had a committee appointed and we moved forward with that.”

The house voted to disband the committee after DiSanto accepted Johnson’s apology.

In an impromptu press conference earlier this week, Representative Elizabeth May says there was pressure not to bring the incident on the house floor.

DiSanto says she’s confident the issue would have been brought to light.

“There were some democrats as well that had actually, specifically said that, if something is not done we will be bringing it forward ourselves," DiSanto says. "As far as would it have been brought out? I believe there were some people that were concerned enough about the behavior that it would have been brought out via someone else had it not been brought out by (Representatives) May and Kaiser.”

DiSanto says more security measures have been put into place since the incident and that she feels comfortable returning to her regular duties at the capitol.