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Don Shooter sues over his removal from House for sexual harassment

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX — Ousted Arizona lawmaker Don Shooter is suing the state, claiming his rights were violated when he was expelled from the House of Representatives last year over sexual harassment allegations.

Former state Attorney General Tom Horne filed the 41-page lawsuit Tuesday on Shooter’s behalf in Maricopa County Superior Court.

It says the former Yuma legislator’s “constitutional rights to freedom of speech, equal protection, and due process and rights to public records” were violated.

The state of Arizona, former Speaker of the House J.D. Mensard and Kirk Adams, former chief of staff for Gov. Doug Ducey, as well as the wives of Mesnard and Adams, were named as defendants.

The lawsuit claims Shooter was denied due process because, in part, the case regarding his expulsion wasn’t investigated by the House Ethics Committee before being put up for vote in the House.

The February 2018 vote to expel Shooter was nearly unanimous, with two other lawmakers joining Shooter in opposing the resolution. It was believed to be the first time a lawmaker was voted out of office since the start of the #MeToo movement.

Shooter’s misconduct was first made public when state Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, a fellow Republican, accused him of behaving inappropriately toward her over a period of years. At least three other female lawmakers also claimed that Shooter harassed them.

The lawsuit lays out a wide-ranging scenario that attempts to show Shooter was the victim of a coordinated attack as retaliation against his efforts to expose corruption in the state’s contracting process.

Mesnard is singled out, in part, for supposedly changing House policies regarding sexual harassment without proper authority and using the new standards as a basis for pursuing Shooter’s expulsion.

Under the previous policy, the suit reads, “Mr. Shooter would have been found to have made offensive attempts at humor, in instances one time in front of separate individuals, but not to have created a hostile work environment.”

Shooter wants the case to be heard by a jury trial and is seeking unspecified damages, attorney’s fees and “other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper under the circumstances.”

Shooter attempted to return to the Capitol during last year’s midterm election, but he finished third out of three candidates in the Republican primary for the District 13 state Senate seat.

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