Arizona House Expels Don Shooter After Report on Sexual Harassment

Don Shooter at the Arizona State Capitol.
Don Shooter at the Arizona State Capitol. Twitter
State Representative Don Shooter, Republican from Yuma, was expelled from office after a vote in the Arizona House following a report that said Shooter's pervasive harassment created a hostile environment at the Legislature.

Before the vote, Shooter stood up and addressed the floor. "I’ve said stupid things. I’ve done stupid things. I stood on the carpet. I took it like a man, I apologized," he said, before voting no on the resolution and leaving the chamber.

The measure to remove him required 40 votes of the 60 House members. Representatives David Stringer and Noel Campbell also voted no. The final tally was 56 votes in favor of expelling Shooter and three opposed.

After the Arizona Capitol Times investigated Shooter's behavior in November, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard hired outside counsel to investigate the allegations. After interviewing over 40 witnesses and victims of Shooter's alleged harassment, law firm Sherman and Howard released a jaw-dropping report on Tuesday that detailed numerous instances of Shooter's sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct.

One previously unreported incident describes Shooter grabbing and shaking his crotch during a meeting with Amy Love, a lobbyist for the Arizona Supreme Court. When investigators brought these allegations to him, Shooter said that the incident "could have happened, but probably did not happen," and added, "Amy Love's not that cute."

Investigators wrote of Shooter's non-denial, "Given the gravity of the allegations made against him, one would think he would have a definite, concrete position on the matter." Similarly, when asked about many of the allegations, Shooter told investigators he did not recall them or waved them away as banter or a joke.

Investigators ultimately corroborated many of the allegations and concluded that Shooter created a "hostile working environment."

Based on the report, Mesnard announced that Shooter's behavior violated the House's workplace harassment policy and removed Shooter from committee assignments. Mesnard also said that he would move to censure Shooter.

But the report led House Majority Whip Kelly Townsend of Mesa to issue an ultimatum to Shooter on Wednesday: Resign by the following day, or she would move to remove him from office.
Shooter didn't step down. Instead, this morning he sent a bizarre letter to other legislators that wasn't even close to a resignation.

“I have thought a lot about Representative Townsend’s plea on the floor yesterday and the Speaker's private, but urgent requests since the first week of this painful and public journey to resign," Shooter wrote. But then he veered into a discussion of an unnamed woman’s experience of sexual harassment by her boss, allegedly a legislator.

“What has been done to her, by omitting her story and not giving it the respect it deserves you disgrace the mission of the sexual harassment investigation committee and our chamber," Shooter said. "No matter what happens to me, this young woman deserves better.”

It's unclear if this woman wanted Shooter to mention her experience in a letter meant to address his behavior, not some anonymous other legislator. And it's a gross attempt at a distraction, clearly intended to move the conversation away from swift consequences for his harassment, a discussion Townsend initiated when she called for a removal vote yesterday.

In a statement before the vote, Mesnard said that he was introducing a resolution to expel Shooter. Mesnard added that he's spoken with the individual mentioned with Shooter's letter and described Shooter's statement as "nothing more than an effort to use the individual as a pawn."

Mesnard wrote, "Rep. Shooter's letter represents a clear act of retaliation and intimidation, and yet another violation of the House's harassment policy, so I will be moving to expel him from the House of Representatives immediately."

After the House had the votes to expel Shooter, Townsend addressed the floor, describing a culture of “retaliation” in the House that she found shocking when she was first elected. “I committed to doing everything I could to make it change, and I wasn’t the only one,” Townsend said.

Shooter’s “cavalier attitude” surrounding the allegations against him left legislators with no choice but to expel him, Townsend said. She added that the Legislature should continue to revise their procedures around harassment.

“I want the public to understand that we don’t have protection the way the corporate world has protection,” Townsend said. “There is no H.R. here, and that’s why we’re standing here today.”
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Joseph Flaherty is a staff writer at New Times. Originally from Wisconsin, he is a graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Contact: Joseph Flaherty