Embattled State Rep. David Stringer resigns amidst ethics probe

PHOENIX (FOX 10/AP) -- State Rep. David Stringer has resigned, according to a statement released by the Arizona State House of Representatives.

Stringer is the subject of two ethics complaints following newspaper reports that he was charged with sex crimes more than three decades ago. The charges were later expunged.

The Prescott Republican lawmaker stepped down as he faced a 5 p.m. deadline to hand over documents demanded by the House Ethics Committee. Earlier in the day he made an emergency request for a judge to block the Legislature from expelling him, then withdrew it as a hearing was scheduled to begin.

Stringer's team believed that expulsion from the chamber was on the horizon, something he and his lawyer asked a Maricopa County judge to block, but with the resignation, an expusion vote is now moot.

Stringer did not respond to a request for comment. His resignation letter said only: "This is to confirm my resignation as State Representative for Legislative District 1, effective 4 p.m. this date, March 27, 2019."

"I don't know the reasons why he resigned, I don't know what the information the House had, I'm not privy to that. It's a sad day for me anyway," said State Rep. Noel Campbell, a GOP lawmaker from Prescott.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, State House Speaker Rusty Bowers said he has accepted Stringer's resignation.

"I'm grateful that the House will not be forced to take action against one of our members, and we can begin to put this matter behind us," said Bowers, in the statement.

State Democratic lawmakers are also speaking out about Stringer's resignation.

"His actions were unbecoming of a state legislator, and racism should have no place in the House of Representatives," Rep. Reginald Bolding, a Democrat who filed one of the two complaints, said in a statement. "The evidence that he was trying to withhold from the Ethics Committee must be damning since he chose to quit rather than comply with a subpoena."

"This cleans the legislature," said State Rep. Cesar Chavez (D). "It gives a clean slate to continue working together in a bipartisan manner, the respect that the institution deserves is needed especially when an individual causes harm to it."

Stringer, a Republican, has been at the center of multiple controversies. In June 2018, he apologized for remakes he made over minority school students in the state and its impact on racial integration.

"60 percent of public school children in the state of Arizona today are minorities. That complicates racial integration because there aren't enough white kids to go around," Stringer then said. "If we don't do something about immigration very, very soon, the demographics of our country will be irrevocably changed."

In December that same year, Stringer found himself in another racially related controversy, after he said, during a conversation following a lecture at Arizona State University, that African-American immigrants "don't blend in"., and called Spanish-speaking students a "burden for Arizona taxpayers". The conversation was later leaked to the Phoenix New Times, which published the recordings.

In January, the Associated Press reported that Stringer is under fire once again, after reports emerged he was charged with sex offenses in Maryland in 1983. The charges were reported on by the Phoenix New Times, based on a copy of the case history the newspaper obtained from the Circuit Court for Baltimore City in Maryland. Stringer's record was expunged, and a court official told the New Times the records should not have been released. Stringer was stripped of his only committee assignment after this controversy.

Stringer's resignation, according to the statement released Wednesday, will end the House Ethics Committee's investigation against Stringer, and a formal report on the investigation will not be released. However, public documents gathered over the course of the investigation will be released as soon as possible.

Stringer's resignation temporarily ends the Republican governing majority in the House and will likely delay some of the GOP's top priorities just as the legislative session heats up. Without Stringer, the House is divided 30-29 between Republicans and Democrats. Legislation requires 31 votes to pass. By law, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors must replace him with a Republican chosen by the county's GOP precinct leaders.

Stringer is the second Arizona lawmaker to lose his seat over ethics questions in just over a year. Lawmakers voted last February to expel Republican Rep. Don Shooter for a lengthy pattern of sexual misconduct.

State Rep. Campbell did not agree with the circumstances under which Stringer resigned.

"Who's next?" asked State Rep. Campbell. "This is getting to be a habit down here and I don't like that. I would never vote to expel a member from this body for something he said. I don't care what he said. There's nothing so egregious he could say. The voters have that right."

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.