PHOENIX — Don Shooter has filed suit against the state and two officials, claiming his rights were violated when he was ousted from the Arizona House of Representatives. The Yuma Republican is seeking unspecified compensation.
In a 41-page lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, Shooter cited actions he said were taken by J.D. Mesnard, at the time the speaker of the House, and by Kirk Adams, who was chief of staff to Gov. Doug Ducey.
In essence, Shooter said all were involved in a conspiracy to silence him for trying to use his position as chair of the House Appropriations Committee to investigate contracts being awarded without seeking bids.
The complaint, filed on his behalf by former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, says Shooter was denied his due process in the way he was investigated for sexual harassment and eventually voted out of the House.
He said the complaints against him by Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, and others should have been referred to the Ethics Committee or another special panel. In that format Shooter would have had opportunity to present his own evidence and have his counsel question witnesses against him.
Instead, he said, Mesnard farmed out the issue to a committee of House staffers who, in turn, hired outside attorneys to investigate.
Shooter also said his ouster was based on his having violated a “zero tolerance” standard for sexual harassment, a policy that did not exist at the time he was investigated and when colleagues voted 56-3 to eject him.
He contended Mesnard had the independent investigators he hired “omit material and exculpatory testimony and evidence,” including allegations against Ugenti-Rita.
The House voted last Feb. 1 to expel Shooter after an investigative report found there was “credible evidence” he had sexually harassed lawmakers, lobbyists and others.
Horne concedes the expulsion vote was not a judicial proceeding subject to set rules and protections. But he said Shooter had a “property right” in his House seat, to which he was elected, and cannot be deprived of it without due process.
Horne said Shooter should have been provided access to the complete investigative file, including the investigators’ notes describing witnesses’ testimony. Horne also contends Shooter was libeled.
Mesnard has since moved to the Senate. Contacted about the lawsuit, he repeated his statement that the Arizona Constitution gives the Legislature “broad powers” to discipline its own members “and Mr. Shooter’s expulsion was well within that authority.”
There was no immediate comment from Adams.