Several female Arizona lawmakers are coming forward alleging sexual harassment at the state legislature. The claims include unwanted sexual advances and even retaliation.
All of this, coming after Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita tweeted that State Sen. Don Shooter is one of the people who has sexually harassed her.
Meanwhile, Rep. Kelly Townsend said she's been through circumstances of this caliber before and now she wants changes, to protect members and so no one ignores the allegations.
“There was one instance where I did have to escalate," she said, "and it was addressed and it no longer a problem."
The Republican says she’s been on the receiving end of sexist comments and unwanted sexual advances. She admits, something must be done.
“I don't want to say it's part of the job but it's one of the complications of being in a workplace environment where you don't have your usual tools to deal with these situations,” she said.
Townsend cannot confirm the six new allegations from different women in an Arizona Capitol Times article against Shooter, of Yuma. However, she says, specific allegations from Ugenti-Rita are under review.
“You have to ask the question 'Were these issues addressed, we're they swept under the rug, were you retaliated against?" she said. "And we do have some accusations on that level from Ms. Ugenti-Rita.”
Shooter has downplayed the accusation, saying he shared a similar irreverent sense of humor with Ugenti. He also accused Ugenti of retaliating against him for unrelated reasons and accused Ugenti of ethical misconduct of her own.
In a new statement through an attorney, he said he will fully cooperate in an investigation at the Capitol, which he claimed he requested.
Townsend said a procedure needs to be in place prior to things going to an investigation.
“A standard form that everybody fills out the same form," she said. "That form, copies are generated of the form and those copies go to the appropriate parties so that perhaps someone in the future can't make the problem go away, make the problem disappear, against the will of the person making the accusations."
A bipartisan group is going to investigate the claims. Townsend tells 12 News that efforts are underway to solidify a process by which members can safely disclose circumstances without fear.
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