The Washington State House Republican leadership has asked Rep. Matt Manweller to resign in response to accusations he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old former high school student of his in 1997.
The allegations were detailed in a story published Friday by the NW News Network.
“I am deeply saddened and disappointed by the story shared in the well-documented piece from the NW News Network,” House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox said in a statement Friday. “What Matt did was wrong.”
In an interview Friday, Wilcox confirmed leadership was asking Manweller to resign in direct response to the story.
“It’s painful for everyone that’s involved,” Wilcox said. “It’s not a light decision when you decide to intervene in something like this.”
Wilcox said while he’s spoken with Manweller, he doesn’t know what the representative will decide to do yet. He said the entire caucus will discuss the issue early next week.
Manweller said Friday he will issue a statement on Monday afternoon. He has denied the woman’s account.
The NW News Network reported the unnamed woman came forward in part because of Manweller’s response to an investigation finding he engaged in a pattern of unprofessional and inappropriate behavior at Central Washington University.
The university fired the political science professor last month. Manweller has vehemently denied the allegations and is suing for wrongful termination.
He is running for re-election this fall against Sylvia Hammond, a Democrat from Ephrata. Manweller won 63 percent of the vote in the August primary.
In a social media post Friday, Hammond said Manweller should resign immediately and end his campaign.
In the latest allegation, the woman spoke to NW News Network on condition of anonymity, saying she met Manweller as a freshman at Wood River High School in Hailey, Idaho, in the 1990s when he was a social studies teacher there. She said she later took classes from him and developed a friendly relationship and then, after her 1997 graduation, a romantic one.
The woman said they went on a hike together the next week and that she went to his house afterward and they had sex. She was 17, and said the two worked to keep their sexual relationship hidden from her parents and others. Manweller was 10 years older.
The woman reportedly disclosed the relationship to at least one person, a friend and former classmate, who confirmed to the NW News Network that she learned of the relationship from the woman in 1997. The woman’s husband also said she informed him of the relationship in the early 2000s.
Manweller acknowledged that he taught the woman at a high school in Hailey, Idaho, but denies that he had a sexual relationship with her when she was 17. Under Idaho state law at the time, sex between an adult male and a female younger than 18 constituted statutory rape.
In the district
Manweller, R-Cle Elum, represents the 13th District, including Grant, Lincoln, Kittitas and part of Yakima counties. He was assistant floor leader for the House Republicans, but stepped down in December after reports detailing investigations into his conduct with female students.
Lincoln County Republican Central Committee Chairman Carol Paul said Friday she did not agree with the leadership’s decision to ask Manweller to resign.
“What right do they have to overrule the voters? If we didn’t want him there, we could vote him out,” she said. “It’s not like he’s been proven guilty of anything ... It’s not fair to him and it’s not fair to his family.”
Grant County Republican Central Committee Vice Chairman Barbara Morgan declined to comment. Kittitas County Republican Party officials did not return calls in time for publication.