A former Arizona lawmaker who performed an honest-to-God mic-drop after he was expelled from the state legislature over numerous sexual harassment allegations has filed a $1.3 million claim against the speaker of the House and the governor’s chief of staff.
Rep. Don Shooter was ousted on Feb. 1 following a 75-page report that allegedly included “credible” harassment accusations from seven different women, including fellow lawmakers and lobbyists.
Shooter argues in a notice of claim filed on Monday that he was targeted by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s office because of his work to unveil fraud in the state’s procurement system. He also claimed that House Speaker J.D. Mesnard changed the chamber’s policies on harassment in order to prematurely remove him from his chairmanship.
“All of this was done to ensure only one possible result: the removal of Representative Shooter to prevent him from his efforts to understand and highlight serious issues of malfeasance in state government contracts,” the 17-page notice of claim says. “No Legislature in the history of Arizona has considered the expulsion of a member without engaging a special or ethics committee consisting of elected members, and providing basic elements of fair disciplinary processes.”
The Republican has said he wants the matter to go to trial so that he can clear his name.
“Mr. Shooter has a compelling story to tell, backed up by the evidence,” his lawyer, Kraig Marton, wrote in the court documents. “He looks forward to the process and his opportunity in a setting, that this time, will include his right to due process.”
Gov. Ducey, in a comment to the Associated Press, denied the allegations in Shooter’s notice of claim and described the charges therein as nothing more than “desperate claims by a disgraced, ousted lawmaker.” Mesnard did not provide comment to the news agency.
Shooter was first accused of harassment by fellow Republican Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who went public with claims against him in November, after the #MeToo movement began spreading throughout the country. In response, Shooter accused Ugenti-Rita of sexual misconduct.
Soon afterward, the speaker ordered an investigation to look into both matters, and the resulting report found that there was “no credible evidence” of the allegations against Ugenti-Rita.
That same 75-page report, however, did conclude that Shooter had engaged in “repeated pervasive conduct (that) created a hostile work environment for his colleagues and those with business before the Legislature,” according to The Arizona Republic.
State Rep. Athena Salman, who has also accused the lawmaker of making explicit comments, lauded Ugenti-Rita for coming forward with her allegations, according to the newspaper.
“I want to publicly and personally thank my colleague for her courage to speak,” said the Democrat, as she reportedly teared up. “It’s gone on for way too long.”
One lobbyist for the Arizona Supreme Court told investigators that, during an encounter in Shooter’s office, the lawmaker said, “I’m a sucker for the pretty ladies. Everyone else around here thinks it. I’m the only one who has the balls to say it.”
According to the report, “he grabbed his entire crotch, and then shook it. [The lobbyist] said she could see the outline of his genital area.”
Shooter later issued an apology for using “jarring, insensitive, and demeaning” language but denied ever trying to touch his accusers. “I stood on the carpet, I took it like a man, I apologized,” Shooter said in a floor speech on the day of his expulsion, after which he reportedly held out his arm and dropped the microphone on his desk before walking off the floor.
He was expelled in a 56-3 vote.
Later that day, he told The Arizona Republic: “I’ve been thrown out of better places than this.”