Rep. Shooter sorry for in­ap­pro­pri­ate re­marks

On House floor, he apol­o­gizes for ‘dis­trac­tion and strain’

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Dustin Gar­diner Ari­zona Repub­lic USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

State Rep. Don Shooter apol­o­gized Tues­day morn­ing on the House floor for mak­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments, break­ing his months-long si­lence about al­le­ga­tions that he sex­u­ally ha­rassed mul­ti­ple women.

“I am sorry for the dis­trac­tion and strain that this mat­ter and the sub­se­quent in­ves­ti­ga­tion have caused all of you,” Shooter said. “I don’t want to go one more day with­out apol­o­giz­ing and hon­or­ing all of you by not only say­ing, ‘I’m sorry,’ but by do­ing bet­ter.”

Shooter, a pow­er­ful Repub­li­can law­maker from Yuma, is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Ari­zona House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives af­ter seven women pub­licly ac­cused him of in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior, in­clud­ing mak­ing sex­u­ally charged com­ments, touch­ing them in­ap­pro­pri­ately or mak­ing un­wanted sex­ual ad­vances.

His apol­ogy came on the se­cond day of the leg­isla­tive ses­sion, as law­mak­ers be­gan manda­tory ha­rass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion train­ing.

Dur­ing the train­ing, some law­mak­ers said that there should be a time limit for peo­ple to file a com­plaint — and they cited the ex­pe­ri­ence of former Alabama Judge Roy Moore, who faced ac­cu­sa­tions of pur­su­ing teenage girls while un­suc­cess­fully run­ning for a U.S. Sen­ate seat last year.

At the start of the ses­sion, Shooter

rose to speak and teared up, of­ten speak­ing in a muf­fled voice, as he read a lengthy state­ment.

Shooter’s tone was largely apolo­getic, but he said some com­plaints against him were false or the re­sult of “a per­sonal or po­lit­i­cal vendetta.”

An avalanche of ac­cu­sa­tions hit Shooter in early Novem­ber, af­ter Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scotts­dale, ac­cused Shooter of mak­ing com­ments about her breasts and mul­ti­ple un­wanted sex­ual ad­vances.

House Speaker J.D. Mes­nard, RChan­dler, sus­pended Shooter as chair­man of the pow­er­ful Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee fol­low­ing those ac­cu­sa­tions. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing, but a re­port from an out­side law firm hired to re­view ac­cu­sa­tions could be com­pleted as early as next week.

He re­mains sus­pended in­def­i­nitely pend­ing the out­come of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Shooter didn’t ad­dress Ugenti-Rita by name on Tues­day, but he ap­peared to sug­gest she was in­sin­cere, say­ing the first ac­cu­sa­tion against him was “for rea­sons that I be­lieve are largely un­re­lated to the com­plaint it­self.”

“But that com­plaint was fol­lowed by a num­ber of ad­di­tional com­plaints, the ma­jor­ity of which were sin­cere and which ex­posed me to the knowl­edge that my ac­tions were not al­ways re­ceived as in­tended, and that worse still, they caused gen­uine dis­com­fort or pain,” he said.

Ugenti-Rita did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment af­ter­ward. Af­ter Ugenti-Rita ac­cused Shooter of ha­rass­ment in Novem­ber, he ac­cused her of hav­ing an in­ap­pro­pri­ate re­la­tion­ship with a leg­isla­tive staff mem­ber and mak­ing a com­ment about mas­tur­ba­tion to a male col­league in a pub­lic hear­ing.

While Shooter didn’t ex­press re­morse re­gard­ing Ugenti-Rita’s ac­cu­sa­tions, he said com­ments he’s made to other women — and one man — were “jar­ring, in­sen­si­tive and de­mean­ing.”

“I don’t need to wait for an in­ves­tiga­tive re­port to know that,” he said.

Sev­eral women also ac­cused Shooter of in­ap­pro­pri­ate touch­ing. A lob­by­ist said he put his hand on her knee in an overtly sex­ual man­ner dur­ing a 2013 meet­ing where she asked for his sup­port on a bud­get is­sue. An­other wo­man said he hugged her in­ap­pro­pri­ately.

Shooter didn’t ad­dress spe­cific ac­cu­sa­tions, but he said he was em­bar­rassed that “well-in­ten­tioned hugs were per­ceived as creepy and lech­er­ous.”

Shooter ended his com­ments by say­ing he hopes to apol­o­gize to those he of­fended, if they are in­ter­ested. While about a dozen of his col­leagues ap­plauded, most sat in si­lence.

“I want to get this right,” he said. “It can be tough to teach old dogs new tricks, but this old dog can learn and will do bet­ter.”

Some question ethics policy

Later in the day, Shooter ques­tioned whether the House’s ethics policy should have a “statute of lim­i­ta­tions” that re­quires ac­cusers to come for­ward with com­plaints within a cer­tain time frame, po­ten­tially six months.

“There has to be some con­crete cut­off date,” Shooter said. “Be­cause oth­er­wise, how are you go­ing to put it be­hind you? Like in the case of Roy Moore, 40 years later some­one comes for­ward.”

Sev­eral GOP law­mak­ers agreed with Shooter’s sug­ges­tion of in­clud­ing a time limit for fil­ing com­plaints in the House’s policy. Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, said such lim­i­ta­tions help pro­tect rep­u­ta­tions from be­ing dam­aged by false ac­cu­sa­tions.

Mes­nard in­ter­jected to say that the House policy is dif­fer­ent from crim­i­nal laws, where statutes of lim­i­ta­tion typ­i­cally ap­ply. He didn’t rule out the idea of im­pos­ing time lim­its for com­plaints, though he said the policy is in­tended to hold law­mak­ers to a high stan­dard.

But the prospect of putting re­port­ing time lim­its on po­ten­tial vic­tims of ha­rass­ment or work­place dis­crim­i­na­tion drew swift op­po­si­tion from sev­eral Demo­cratic law­mak­ers, along with Rep. Heather Carter, R-Scotts­dale.

Rep. Regi­nald Bold­ing, D-Phoenix, said that be­cause the policy gov­erns al­leged in­stances of ha­rass­ment be­tween fel­low law­mak­ers, some­one may not want to make a com­plaint im­me­di­ately out of fear of po­lit­i­cal re­tal­i­a­tion.

He said law­mak­ers should fo­cus on pro­tect­ing vic­tims of ha­rass­ment, not the ac­cused.

“You should be afraid that you have com­mit­ted an act of ha­rass­ment and that could come back and bite you,” Bold­ing said. “The fact of mat­ter is you never should have ha­rassed them in the first place.”

TOM TIN­GLE/THE REPUB­LIC

Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, apol­o­gizes to law­mak­ers and lob­by­ists on Tues­day on the House floor. Shooter is fac­ing a House ethics in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter seven women pub­licly ac­cused him of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.