Ex-Rep. Shooter wants House to probe former speaker over expulsion

PHOENIX — Ousted state Rep. Don Shooter wants the Senate Ethics Committee to determine whether former House Speaker J.D. Mesnard acted unethically in refusing to release parts of an investigative report on Shooter that resulted in his expulsion.

In a letter to Sen. Sine Kerr who chairs the panel, Shooter charges that Mesnard is guilty of “intentionally orchestrating a cover-up by hiding from members and the public, critical, relevant testimony from three credible witnesses.” Those witnesses, Shooter said, would provide a full picture of the situation that resulted in the 56-3 vote in February 2018 to remove him from the House after his colleagues concluded he was guilty of multiple incidents of sexual harassment.

Mesnard, a Chandler Republican, declined to comment on the complaint.

Kerr, a Buckeye Republican, told Capitol Media Services that Shooter’s complaint is not official because he failed to notarize it as required by the Senate. “Therefore, it would not be prudent for me to comment at this time,” she said. “As soon as the complaint is official, the process of review will begin.”

The maneuver is Shooter’s latest bid to find out what investigators learned about charges made against Michelle Ugenti-Rita, then a fellow representative.

Shooter has long alleged that Ugenti-Rita, who made some of the allegations against him, was also guilty of sexual harassment. But the investigator hired by the House found “no credible evidence” she violated any House policies.

“That finding is a lie,” Shooter charges in Monday’s complaint, saying that evidence gathered in the investigation found both testimony and physical evidence.

What makes all this relevant is that Shooter, both here and through a separate lawsuit he has filed, contends that there was a cover-up and that he was forced out and that some of that was based on the complaint of Ugenti-Rita “who was also under investigation.”

That is only partly true. The investigation also turned up various other instances of sexual harassment, with victims also including other lawmakers, lobbyists and even a woman who at the time was the publisher of the Arizona Republic.

Shooter also filed a copy of the complaint with Rep. T.J. Shope who chairs the House Ethics Committee.

Technically speaking, that panel no longer has jurisdiction over Mesnard since he moved to the Senate. But Shooter said the House remains in possession of the full, unredacted report and all the interviews, material he said would provide a complete and balanced picture of what happened.

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