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Report: Tucson councilman harassed 3 city workers

TUCSON, Ariz. An investigation by the city of Tucson has found that a councilmember had sexually harassed three female city employees while on a business trip to San Diego.

A report from the probe on Councilman Paul Cunningham recommended sexual harassment training for all councilmembers and their staffs and a renewed emphasis on sexual-harassment awareness for all city employees.

The Arizona Daily Star reported that the city charter doesn't contain any meaningful provisions to punish misbehaving elected officials.

Cunningham told the newspaper in a text message that he takes responsibility for acting unprofessionally and making inappropriate comments while he was intoxicated and that he will participate in an alcohol treatment program.

He was among several city officials and city employees who joined business leaders on an economic development trip to San Diego in May. The report said Cunningham began drinking in the late afternoon on May 16 and then made comments that were "inappropriate, graphic and sexual in nature" to three female city employees at an evening event.

It said two of the women he is accused of sexually harassing claimed Cunningham previously made lewd comments toward them at non-city-related events. They said they told Cunningham his behavior was inappropriate, and he appeared to be intoxicated at the time, the report stated.

Witnesses said Cunningham continued making sexual comments even though one of the women told him she was offended and walked away.

As for why the other two women stayed, the report said they felt obligated as representatives of the city to keep Cunningham contained in one area of the bar to spare other patrons from his behavior.

When investigators asked Cunningham to account for his actions, he classified some of his statements toward the women as banter and admitted the conversation became personal and comments "of a sexual nature to some degree" eventually were made, according to the report.

Cunningham told investigators he was too drunk to recall specific remarks he made about one employee's body, but said it wasn't his intention to offend anyone.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said the report demonstrates Cunningham's behavior violated the employees' rights and could open the door to lawsuits.

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Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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