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Arizona lawmaker bows out from investigation of harassment claims

Arizona state Rep. Kelly Townsend addresses delegates to a balanced budget planning convention at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on Sept. 12, 2017, shortly after being nominated to serve as president of the convention. (AP Photo/Bob Christie)

PHOENIX — An Arizona lawmaker said Monday that she will not be participating in an investigation to examine allegations of harassment and inappropriate behavior at the state Legislature.

Rep. Kelly Townsend said in a Facebook post that she made her decision based off the fact that the situations she “formerly dealt with [have] been delivered and there is no further need to revisit a painful issue.”

Townsend came forward last week, saying she has received “unwanted sexual advances by more than one person” and has been subject to “intimidating behavior and retaliation” by someone in a position of power in years past. 

But Townsend said her concerns were “not new and have been fully investigated and resolved. Any further discussion would be purely going through the motions for reasons I can only speculate on.”

The Arizona representative said she would rather “focus on creating a permanent structure and a standard procedure where every member knows exactly what will happen should they choose to engage in this type of behavior.

“It is my hope to find that pathway sooner rather than later,” she said. 

Townsend and several other lawmakers came forward with their stories of harassment shortly after Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) said she was sexually harassed for years by state Rep. Don Shooter (R-Yuma) and several other of her male coworkers.

Arizona’s most powerful business group, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, has also called on Shooter to resign amid the allegations that the legislator sexually harassed or acted inappropriately toward multiple women.

In response to the allegations that surfaced, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard announced he would conduct an investigation to examine the harassment claims.

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