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Arizona lawmaker accuses colleague of sexual harassment

(Facebook and Twitter Photos)

PHOENIX — An Arizona lawmaker publicly accused one of her colleagues on Tuesday of sexually harassing her for years despite her requests for him to stop.

In an exclusive with KTVK-TV, state Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita said state Rep. Don Shooter has harassed her since she arrived in the Legislature in 2011 and others may have done the same.

Ugenti-Rita said Shooter, who is married, had attempted to ask her about her chest, came to her hotel room uninvited with beer and told her he loved her.

She said she told Shooter to stop on multiple occasions.

“At a Republican fundraiser at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort, he walked me to my car and proceeded to try to convince me to go to a room,” she told the TV station.

“He knew I was uncomfortable because I told him. I remember two incidences specifically where I told him directly that what he was doing was wrong.”

Ugenti-Rita said she informed House leadership but nothing was done and she was concerned about possible retribution.

Ugenti-Rita also wrote a Facebook post about the incidents last month, but did not name Shooter.

“Starting out in any industry puts one in a vulnerable position and these behaviors exploited and took advantage of my lack of familiarity with the dynamic I was in,” the post said.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said Ugenti-Rita’s claims would be investigated. Gov. Doug Ducey said he supported the investigation.

“There can be absolutely no tolerance for sexual harassment in the halls of our state Capitol, or any other organization — private or public,” Ducey said in a statement.

In a brief statement given to KTVK, Shooter apologized for his actions.

“Upsetting anybody is the last thing I ever intend to do,” the statement read. “I want to talk to [Ugenti-Rita]. I will do better.”

However, Shooter released a second statement saying that, after seeing specifics of Ugenti-Rita’s accusations, “I absolutely withdraw my apology.”

The statement concluded, “Ms. Ugenti is lying about me and I have asked Speaker Mesnard to have the entire matter investigated by the House Ethics Committee/Counsel. At the conclusion of their work, I will consider taking further legal action in this matter.”

State Rep. Kelly Townsend called for a better sexual harassment policy after Ugenti-Rita’s accusations and said she had witnessed her colleague be mistreated in the past, albeit not by Shooter. She also said she had been the recipient of untoward advances on at least two occasions.

Shooter has popped up in headlines in recent years. Four years ago, he was charged with three misdemeanors after yelling at multiple officials inside a Yuma school his grandson attended.

He also appeared to flip off a TV reporter in April, though he claimed he was scratching his eye.

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