PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Arizona State House Speaker J.D. Mesnard has released an investigative report on sexual harassment allegations involving State Representatives Don Shooter (R) and Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R).
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According to a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the report concluded there is "credible evidence" that State Rep. Shooter violated State House policy against sexual harassment. The same statement also states the report "did not find credible evidence" that State Rep. Ugenti-Rita violated State House policy.
State House Speaker Mesnard, according to the statement, outlined several actions, including the removal of State Rep. Shooter from all committee assignments, effective immediately, as well as the introduction of a censure motion against State Rep. Shooter.
State House Speaker Mesnard said the incident has cast a dark cloud over the legislature.
"They involve crude jokes and disgusting comments, all of which I find unbecoming of a member, and deserving of a censure, which is why I proposed it," said Mesnard.
In addition, the statement said State House Speaker Mesnard will, among other remedial actions:
- Propose changes to State House rules that will require a formal anti-harassment policy that all members must abide
- Propose the addition of a formal behavioral code for all State House members
- Formalize a Human Resources Department for the State House, and
- Ban alcohol consumption on State House premises.
State Rep. Shooter responds
State Rep. Shooter released his own statement on the report, shortly after the report's release. It reads:
“I am reviewing the report released by Speaker Mesnard today in connection with the investigation I requested. Although I have not finished reading it, I want to thank my colleagues for their patience and professionalism during this process.”
“I also want to thank the investigators, Craig Morgan and Lindsay Hesketh from the law firm Sherman & Howard. With so much at stake for so many, their task was no doubt challenging. I appreciate the seriousness with which they approached their assignment.”
“This has been a humbling and eye-opening experience for me. I look forward to working to repair relationships and serving my constituents and our great State.”
“I will have no further comment. Thank you.”
Democratic leader responds
The Democratic leader in the State House, Rebecca Rios, also responded to the report.
“Harassment, sexism and lewd behavior should not be tolerated in the People's House or any Arizona workplace. While our members are still individually working their way through the report, our initial feeling is that it paints a detailed and disturbing picture of pervasive sexual harassment and sexism on the part of Rep. Shooter. The Speaker's recommended sanctions are well-deserved, however we are still discussing as a caucus whether they go far enough. We applaud the courage of all the women and men who came forward to share their experiences or information for the investigation, and the Speaker for outlining a fair and thorough investigative process.”