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Shooter removed from all committees after sexual harassment investigation

Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, reads a statement regarding sexual harassment and other misconduct complaints made against him by Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita and others, as he spoke prior to Arizona House members receiving mandatory sexual harassment and other ethics issues training on the House floor at the Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Arizona Rep. Don Shooter was permanently removed from all committees Tuesday for sexually harassing women, the state Speaker of the House said.

State Rep. J.D. Mesnard said an investigation showed his colleague violated the House sexual harassment policy. Mesnard also said he would introduce a House resolution to censure the lawmaker for his behavior.

In a news conference, Mesnard said in addition to the action taken toward Shooter, he will also create a formal sexual harassment policy, appoint a bipartisan team to create a code of conduct for all members, will formalize a HR department for the House and will ban the consumption of alcohol on the House premises.

He expects a formal House vote Thursday on the censure proposal. Only a simple majority vote is needed, while a 2/3 vote is needed for expulsion.

Shooter released a statement saying he was reviewing the report but wanted to correct himself.

“This has been a humbling and eye-opening experience for me,” he said. “I look forward to working to repair relationships and serving my constituents and our great state.”

Shooter had already been suspended from his role as chairman of the appropriations committee, one of the most powerful posts in the House outside of majority GOP leadership.

Mesnard also said he did not ask for Shooter’s resignation.

State Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita was the first to accuse Shooter of behaving inappropriately. At least three other female lawmakers also claimed this week that he harassed them.

The investigation showed that the Yuma lawmaker regularly took part in off-color — but relatively harmless — banter with his colleagues, including Ugenti-Rita, that sometimes had a sexual overtone.

The report said Shooter was guilty of sexually harassing Ugenti-Rita under House policy in both 2012 and 2013 when he attempted to contact her after their friendship had grown cold. Ugenti-Rita said she distanced herself from him because he said crude things.

A lobbyist, Amy Love, told investigators that Shooter groped himself in front of her while saying he was “a sucker for the pretty ladies.” He said that may have happened but it was not probable because Love was “not that cute.”

An Arizona Republic publisher, Mi-Ai Parrish, told investigators Shooter made a sexual joke about her during a meeting because of her Asian heritage. He did not remember making the statement, but said he would not be surprised if he said it.

The report said Shooter also made degrading and sexual comments about state Rep. Darin Mitchell to another state lawmaker, Adam Stevens, and Stevens’ wife, in regard to Shooter’s run for Speaker of the House.

Several other allegations were made against Shooter, but investigators were not able to confirm them.

The report concluded that there was “credible evidence” that Shooter violated the House sexual harassment policy and that his “repeated pervasive conduct has created a hostile working environment for his colleagues.”

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