PHOENIX (AP) — A Democratic Arizona lawmaker asked the state House of Representatives Monday to expel Republican Rep. David Stringer after a newspaper reported that he was charged with sex offenses in 1983 in a case that was later expunged.
Republicans voted to pause the House session before lawmakers could vote on the expulsion request by Democratic Rep. Reginald Bolding.
"Allegations of a sexual nature that were not disclosed to this body, to our voters, that is not transparency," Bolding said. "That is unbecoming of a member of this institution."
Stringer, of Prescott, came under fire twice last year for his comments about race and immigration. He has not responded to phone calls and emails from The Associated Press over several days.
In pushing to avoid an expulsion vote, Republican Rep. Warren Petersen said lawmakers shouldn't rush to expel a colleague before learning his side of the story, noting a complaint had been filed with the House Ethics Committee.
"It's not that people aren't horrified, people haven't been shocked," Petersen said. "But we have a process."
Lawmakers need to learn the facts "before we destroy a man" and overrule the will of the people who voted for him, said Rep. John Fillmore of Apache Junction, who voted with other Republicans to delay an expulsion vote.
"We should stand for the rule of law," Fillmore said. "I believe in America, it still is that you have a right to a hearing, a right to defend yourself, a right to put the information out there for everybody to see."
Stringer would be the second lawmaker removed from office in a year if his colleagues vote to expel him. Rep. Don Shooter, a Yuma Republican, was ousted last February for a lengthy pattern of sexual misconduct, making him the first Arizona lawmaker expelled in three decades and the first in the country to be kicked out following the #MeToo movement.
The Phoenix New Times on Friday published a copy of a case history the newspaper obtained from the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. A Maryland judicial official told the newspaper the case was expunged and the records should not have been given to the newspaper.
Details of the charges against Stringer are unclear. The case summary published by New Times, which blacked out information about victims and witnesses, lists unspecified charges but does not detail the allegations. One entry says "charge is child pornography."
The records indicate he was ordered to perform 208 hours of community service and "to seek admission to Dr. Berlin's program at Hopkins." Dr. Frederick Berlin founded the Sexual Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins University medical school.
The New Times report was published a day after Stringer issued a surprise apology on the House floor for his remarks last year that led to the loss of his chairmanship of a key committee.
Prominent Republicans including Gov. Doug Ducey called for Stringer to resign to resign last summer when video circulated on social media of him saying "there aren't enough white kids to go around" when discussing integration in schools. He refused and was re-elected in November.
A few weeks later, the New Times reported that Stringer told Arizona State University students that African Americans "don't blend in." He also said Somali immigrants don't look like "every other kid" as previous European immigrants do.
Bolding drew from the earlier controversies in calling for Stringer to be expelled, saying it's harmful for black children to hear an elected representative say they don't blend in.
If Stringer resigns or is removed from office, Republicans would temporarily lose their majority in the 60-seat House, which is currently split 31-29 between Republicans and Democrats. Thirty-one votes are required to pass legislation.
The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors would choose a replacement from three candidates submitted by the Republican precinct committee members in the county. His replacement must be a Republican under state law.