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Arizona House expels legislator accused of harassment
The Arizona House of Representatives on Thursday voted to expel a powerful committee chairman who had been accused of sexually harassing more than half a dozen women around the state capital.
State Rep. Don Shooter (R) had been accused of harassing three colleagues in the state legislature, as well as several staffers and lobbyists. An independent investigation conducted by a Phoenix legal firm, released Wednesday, concluded that many of the allegations against him were credible and that he had violated the state House's harassment policy.
Fifty-six of the 60 state House members voted to expel Shooter, with several more members who had yet to cast their vote. Shooter was one of just three members to vote against his own expulsion. State House rules require 40 of 60 members to vote to expel a member.
Shooter had been the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. House Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R) suspended Shooter in November, after The Hill contacted his office to inquire about the harassment allegations.
State Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R), one of the three legislators who accused Shooter of a pattern of harassing behavior, detailed her treatment in a series of interviews with The Hill last year.
Ugenti-Rita said Shooter had told her he was in love with her. At a conference for Republican state legislators in New Orleans, she said, Shooter had knocked on her hotel room door after hours with a six-pack of beer. Ugenti-Rita did not open the door, and Shooter eventually left.
Later, Shooter left a bottle of tequila in Ugenti-Rita's office, along with a note that included the lyrics of a Kenny Chesney song. Ugenti-Rita turned the note over to investigators.
The investigation found credible evidence that all of those incidents had taken place.
Multiple local news outlets reported that Shooter showed up at Ugenti-Rita's office on Thursday morning, before the expulsion vote, and allegedly issued a threat. The state Department of Public Safety is investigating the incident.
Brahm Resnik, a reporter at NBC's Phoenix affiliate KVOA, said the department had confiscated a gun Shooter kept in his capital office.
Mesnard had said after Wednesday's report that he would move to censure Shooter on the House floor. But after Shooter sent a letter to colleagues challenging parts of the investigation's conclusions, Mesnard said he would move to expel Shooter instead.
In the letter, Shooter said Mesnard had asked him to resign. It also accused the law firm of overlooking the testimony of another female staffer, unnamed, who had accused a different legislator of harassment.
Mesnard said the letter amounted to another violation of the chamber's harassment policy and "a clear act of retaliation and intimidation."
Ugenti-Rita did not immediately respond to a text message requesting comment.
Shooter is one of at least half a dozen state legislators to have resigned or been forced out of office over allegations of sexual harassment in recent months. A dozen more in states across the country face accusations of improper behavior, sexual harassment or abuse, though investigations are ongoing.