PHOENIX — Claiming he was railroaded from office and libeled, former state Rep. Don Shooter has filed a $1.3 million claim against the state.
Shooter’s colleagues in the Arizona House voted 56-3 on Feb. 1 to expel him for multiple acts of sexual harassment against lawmakers, lobbyists and others.
Shooter’s attorney claims, in a 17-page claim filed Monday, that House Speaker J.D. Mesnard and Gov. Doug Ducey effectively conspired to have the House vote to oust him, at least in part to thwart his efforts to investigate what Shooter contends are improper awards of state contracts.
The attorney, Kraig Marton, said Shooter, a Yuma Republican, had been threatening to use his power as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee to issue subpoenas “to gain further insight into the irregularities in the procurement process.”
That was undermined, Marton said, first by Mesnard unilaterally — and he contends illegally — enacting a new policy on sexual harassment and then applying it retroactively to things Shooter did previously, sometimes years before. The policy was used for what Marton called an improper investigative report to form the basis for the House to remove Shooter even as others who faced sexual harassment allegations were let off the hook, he said.
“The speaker’s objective was only to remove the burr under the governor’s saddle that Rep. Shooter had become due to his attempts to uncover evidence of steering, no-bid contracts and other non-competitive procurement processes,” Marton wrote in the claim. “What began as an attempt to silence an outspoken critic of corruption in state government contracts turned into an all-out character assassination.”
Mesnard, a Chandler Republican, said the claim has no merit.
“The Arizona Constitution gives the Legislature broad powers when it comes to disciplining its own members, and Mr. Shooter’s expulsion was well within that authority,” the speaker said in a prepared statement. “It’s unfortunate that Mr. Shooter continues to blame others for the consequences of his own actions.”
Ducey press aide Daniel Scarpinato reacted in a similar fashion.
“These are desperate claims by a disgraced, ousted lawmaker,” Scarpinato said. “We dispute them entirely.”
The notice of claim is a legal precursor to litigation.
Shooter’s financial demand is a required part of any notice of claim, as Arizona law says those who plan to sue must provide a dollar figure for which they would agree to settle to avoid litigation.
If the state does not respond within 60 days, Shooter is free to sue.
That could make public the full investigative report, including all interviews and photographs, which Mesnard has repeatedly refused to make public.
The report found multiple credible incidents of sexual harassment by Shooter. Aside from Shooter himself, only Reps. Noel Campbell and David Stringer, both Republicans from Prescott, voted against his ouster, saying a censure would have been more appropriate.
During that vote, Stringer said there was a lack of due process — an argument Shooter is now making in his claim.
Mesnard did not follow the normal process in which complaints against a legislator go first to the chairman of the Ethics Committee. That person then decides whether to pursue the matter further. Instead, Mesnard put together a hand-picked group of staffers to oversee the process and directed them to hire outside counsel to investigate.
Marton said that the investigation was rigged, and that lawmakers were denied access to the full report. “The version they were provided was intentionally devoid of material facts that are supportive and exculpatory of Mr. Shooter,” he said. “The report was heavily redacted and members of the public were provided only a fraction of the materially actually obtained and known by the appointed special counsel.”
Shooter did not deny making many of the harassing comments attributed to him.