Arizona lawmaker says she was sexually harassed at state Capitol

Scottsdale lawmaker Michelle Ugenti-Rita shares her "me-too" experience of sexual harassment by other Arizona legislators who believe the rules don't apply to them.

PHOENIX - An Arizona lawmaker says she was sexually harassed after her election seven years ago, and things only got worse after she reported it.

"Very lewd, inappropriate comments when you're in the middle of a business meeting," Republican State Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita of Scottsdale said in an interview Friday.

"It makes you feel uncomfortable, intimidated and affects the way you do your job."

Ugenti, a 37-year-old mother of three, declined to publicly name the two legislators who she said harassed her.

Retired Democratic state lawmaker Debbie McCune Davis, who served 30 years in the Legislature, said she doesn't blame her.

"She's still involved in the political world, and there would be a price to pay for naming names," McCune Davis said.

McCune Davis said new female legislators often drew attention.

"There was always in the new class that came in, always a young woman who would be the focus of somebody's attention," she said.

"It seemed there would be an effort to engage that young woman in activities other than just helping them get their bills passed."

Ugenti-Rita says she reported the harassment by a couple of legislators to House leadership at the time.

"I did that and they did their best," she said.

But it didn't stop retaliation by other legislators.

"I think that's what a lot of people struggle with when they think about coming forward," Ugenti-Rita said.

Current House Speaker JD Mesnard issued this statement:

"I take any report of sexual harassment very seriously, and I hope anyone who has had that experience will not hesitate to share their story. Only by first listening to these accounts can we learn from them and determine what steps can be taken to improve our existing policy for reporting sexual harassment."

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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