(Updated to correct that Highberger signed the letter)
A special House committee issued a letter Thursday, admonishing Democratic state Rep. Aaron Coleman, saying his conduct with young women was “unfitting” for a member of the Kansas House.
The committee didn’t take stronger action because Coleman was not sworn in as a member of the House when the actions occurred.
The letter directed Coleman to accept a House member as a mentor who will be decided in consultation with House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer.
The letter warns Coleman that failure to comply may result in another complaint being filed against him that would likely result in a reprimand, censure or expulsion from the Legislature.
Last month, a special House committee – made up of three Democrats and three Republicans – agreed to dismiss a complaint seeking his ouster from the House on the condition that warning letter was sent to the freshman lawmaker from Kansas City.
Two Democrats on the committee – Cindy Neighbor and Susan Ruiz of Shawnee – didn’t sign the letter in protest.
They had pushed for a harsher penalty, something stronger than a letter.
Democratic House leadership still has not assigned Coleman to a committee.
Sawyer said Coleman would not be assigned to a committee until the Kansas City lawmaker is willing to get counseling and shows remorse by apologizing to victims.
He does have an office on the ground level of the Capitol.
“I was disappointed it wasn’t stronger,” Sawyer said of the admonition. “He’s got to convince us that he’s really sorry for what he did.”
The complaint was the latest in a string of events involving Coleman, some of which surfaced after he narrowly upset Rep. Stan Frownfelter in the Democratic primary last summer.
Coleman has been under fire from his own party after he acknowledged allegations of online bullying, blackmail and revenge porn when he was in middle school.
A former girlfriend also accused Coleman of slapping and choking her last year.
And later he was accused stalking Frownfelter’s former campaign manager and abusive behavior toward the House minority leader’s chief of staff.
Last October, The Kansas City Star reported that Coleman was arrested for threatening to shoot a student at a school in the Turner School District when he was 14 years old. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge.
A Coleman tweet from November sparked more talk about his removal.
Coleman went on Twitter and used the term “hit” in the context of criticizing Gov. Laura Kelly for not supporting Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.
Earlier this week, Coleman sent out an email blasting Sawyer for not putting him on a committee. He accused House leadership of taking action against because of his faith.
“Democratic leadership also seeks to suppress the Jewish Community by creating barriers for the only Jewish member” of the Legislature, Coleman said in a statement.
“In light of the 2014 Overland Park Jewish Community Center shooting, Democratic Leadership’s actions are extremely shocking,” he sad.
“Democratic Leadership may not realize it, they are continuing Kansas’s anti-semetic history by not allowing Jews to participate in the political process.”