PHOENIX — A special House panel investigating sexual harassment complaints against Rep. Don Shooter has hired an attorney who was involved in a 2012 inquiry into another lawmaker.
Craig Morgan was chosen Wednesday by the seven-member committee appointed by House Speaker J.D. Mesnard to look into allegations against Shooter, a Yuma Republican. Those include complaints filed by Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, as well as those of others, both formal and those brought to the investigative team’s attention through social media.
The panel also will look at counter-claims Shooter made about comments and actions by Ugenti-Rita.
“My firm and I have been retained to investigate harassment allegations,” Morgan said Wednesday. “My charge at this juncture is to investigate the facts and find out what happened.”
Morgan, with the Phoenix firm of Sherman & Howard, said he cannot comment further.
He is no stranger to political issues.
Morgan, with a different firm at the time, was brought on board in 2012 by then-House speaker Andy Tobin to look into allegations brought against Rep. Daniel Patterson, a Tucson Democrat.
They started in connection with a domestic violence incident involving a former girlfriend of Patterson’s. But that case ballooned after Morgan and the investigative team reported to the Ethics Committee they found multiple instances where lawmakers said they had been intimidated or harassed by Patterson.
Patterson eventually resigned. No House member has been forced out since the 1940s.
In the Shooter case, Mesnard named seven House staffers, including two nonpartisan attorneys and members of both parties, to take a closer look at recent complaints, some going back years, that Shooter made sexually suggestive comments to Ugenti-Rita and two other legislators as well as three lobbyists, a businesswoman, the Arizona Republic’s publisher, and an intern from Arizona Capitol Times.
The panel, in turn, interviewed several outside attorneys and hired Morgan, who has political experience as well as no pending business before the Legislature.
Mesnard said he hopes to have the investigation wrapped up before lawmakers return to the Capitol the second week in January.
Shooter has retained Daniel Pasternak as his own legal counsel for what could be a lengthy investigation with the potential for public hearings on the special committee’s findings.
Morgan’s contract says he will be paid what he calls a discounted rate of $325 an hour, with other members of the firm who get involved in the probe billing at $400 an hour. There is nothing in the contract about a maximum charge, and the House will be billed every 30 days.
Morgan’s bio says he has been involved in other political issues, including legal fights over the sufficiency of signatures on petitions.
He also was involved in a successful 2010 lawsuit to keep Augustus Shaw from running for the House from Tempe after getting a judge to rule that Shaw wasn’t a resident of the district.