Arizona House expels lawmaker accused of harassment by 9 women

An investigation found Rep. Don Shooter "engaged in a pattern of unwelcome and hostile conduct"

The Arizona House of Representatives voted on Monday to expel Rep. Don Shooter, Republican of Yuma, from his seat after an explosive report revealed he created a hostile work environment and sexually harassed women.

The House was poised to vote Thursday over whether to censure Shooter, which would mean an explicit and public statement of disapproval. But Speaker J.D. Mesnard called for Shooter to be ousted after Shooter released a defensive statement Thursday moments before the vote, calling into question the veracity of the investigation and hinting that another lawmaker was also guilty of misconduct.

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According to the Associated Press, Mesnard said Shooter’s letter "represents a clear act of retaliation and intimidation, and yet another violation of the House’s harassment policy, so I will be moving to expel him from the House of Representatives immediately."

The 84-page investigation released Tuesday found Shooter “engaged in a pattern of unwelcome and hostile conduct toward other members of the Legislature and those who have business at the Capitol.”

Shooter, 65, was stripped of his position chairing the House Appropriations Committee when the allegations first arose.

Nine women came forward with examples of inappropriate comments, touching, and misconduct. In some instances, investigators couldn’t verify whether allegations were true.

Arizona state Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, center, leaves the House speaker's office along with Reps. Jay Lawrence, left, and Vince Leach, right, in Phoenix, Ariz., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Bob Christie)

One woman, Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, alleged that when she was breastfeeding her child, Shooter commented, “That’s one lucky baby. I wish I was that baby.”

The report says Shooter did not recall the comment, but he also did not deny it.

Mesnard, who has vowed to try to change the institutional culture, told ABC15 on Tuesday, "This is, as everyone knows, a conversation that has been happening across the country and as speaker, I'm tasked with the credibility of this institution."

Cover: Arizona state Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, reads a statement regarding sexual harassment and other misconduct complaints made against him by Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita and others, on the House floor at the Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)