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Sunday, September 15, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

GOP House leaders say Rep. Matt Manweller should resign after allegations surface of sexual relationship with former student in Idaho

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 21, 2018, 8:55 p.m.

Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, speaks on the House floor March 3, 2015, in Olympia. Manweller, a political science professor, was recently fired by Central Washington University following the completion of an outside investigation into alleged inappropriate conduct. (Rachel La Corte / Associated Press)
Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, speaks on the House floor March 3, 2015, in Olympia. Manweller, a political science professor, was recently fired by Central Washington University following the completion of an outside investigation into alleged inappropriate conduct. (Rachel La Corte / Associated Press)
From staff, wire reports

A former high school student of state Rep. Matt Manweller says she had a sexual relationship with him in the early 1990s when she was a minor, according to a report published Friday.

Manweller, a Republican from Cle Elum, Washington, denied the woman’s account, which was reported by NW News Network Friday. But on Friday evening, House Republican leaders asked for his resignation.

House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox said he was “deeply saddened and disappointed” by the story.

“What Matt did was wrong,” Wilcox said in an email released shortly before 6 p.m. “Our leadership team has asked Matt to resign from his position as state representative. Our entire caucus will discuss this issue early next week.”

Attempts to reach Manweller on Friday evening were unsuccessful. A call to his campaign office was answered by a recording that said it was “not accepting calls at this time.”

Manweller, like all House members, is up for re-election this year. In the August primary, he picked up 63.5 percent of the vote against Democratic challenger Sylvia Hammond in a strongly Republican district that includes Kittitas, Grant and Lincoln counties.

The woman, speaking on condition of anonymity to NW News Network, said she met Manweller as a freshman at Wood River High School in Hailey, Idaho, in the early 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 graduation, a romantic one.

Her account is the latest in a series of allegations of Manweller’s treatment of young women, and students in particular. A Seattle Times story last year explored reports of misconduct from his job at Central Washington University, and the university later launched an independent investigation that led to Manweller’s firing last month.

In the Idaho case reported by NW News Network, the woman graduated in 1997 and said she connected with Manweller outside of her workplace soon after. In a journal entry that she showed NW News Network, the woman recalled the meeting and said Manweller “kept calling me sweetie and cutie, which was weird.”

Manweller, who was about 10 years older at the time, had also told her he was going through “withdrawals” over not seeing her, according to the journal.

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. Idaho law treated such a relationship as statutory rape.

Manweller disputed the Idaho woman’s account, according to NW News Network.

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.

The woman’s account has some similarities to that of Manweller’s first wife. After working in Idaho, Manweller began working at a high school in Utah. It was there that he met OraLynn Reeve, also a student of his.

Reeve has said they met when he was 28 and she was 16. She said they kissed when she was 17 and started dating later when she was 18. They married shortly after she graduated from high school.

More recently, Manweller worked as a political science professor at Central Washington, where more questions have been raised about his interactions with young women. The university fired him after the most recent investigation into his behavior.

Among the allegations at CWU was from a student in 2009 who said Manweller put his hand on her leg during a meeting and said, “There’s always a way for you to get an A in this class.” The recent investigative report said the woman understood him to mean that a sexual favor could earn a positive grade.

Manweller has said it was not a sexual suggestion at all and that he is flabbergasted that the woman took it that way.

Another allegation from a woman in 2006 said that Manweller had commented in a meeting that the two of them had a sexual energy and that they could discuss her work “orally” at a hotel. Manweller also denied that allegation.

Investigators have also looked at the accounts of other women, including a woman who baby-sat for him and a woman who worked at the Legislature.

Manweller has characterized the university investigation as biased and focused on flimsy allegations. He is seeking $2 million as part of a claim against the university.

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