Big Idea: The issue of the vote to expel Representative Don Shooter was bigger than Don Shooter himself.
What you need to know:
- On November 10, 2017, sexual harassment allegations against Don Shooter were made public.
- At that time, Shooter was suspended from the House Appropriations Chairmanship.
- On February 1, the Arizona House of Representatives voted to expel Representative Don Shooter.
- It’s a question of precedent.
According to the Free Dictionary online, the term 'due process' means, "A fundamental, constitutional guarantee that all legal proceedings will be fair and that one will be given notice of theproceedings and an opportunity to be heard before the government acts to take away one's life, liberty, or property. Also, a constitutional guarantee that a law shall not be unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious."
Just a little over a year ago, Representative Don Shooter served as the Chair of both the Joint Committee on Capital Review and the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. He was the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
Then on Friday, November 10, 2017, this announcement was made by Speaker of the House JD Mesnard:
“I have suspended Representative Shooter’s responsibilities as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee pending the results of the investigation into the allegations against him. He will not be taking any budgetary meetings, chairing hearings, or engaging in any budget discussion or any duties related to Appropriations until the investigation has concluded. Representative Shooter is entitled to – and will receive – a fair and thorough investigation into his behavior before the House determines what action is needed, but I don’t believe he can properly fulfill his obligations as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee until that investigation has concluded. Additionally, due to the number and nature of the allegations against him, the House’s bipartisan sexual harassment investigative team has decided to employ the use of outside investigators moving forward. I support their decision."
Fast forward to February 1, 2017, when an overwhelming vote was taken in the Arizona House of Representatives: 56-3 to expel Representative Don Shooter after several women accused him of sexual harassment.
The three 'Nay' votes? Prescott area Representatives David Stringer and Noel Campbell; and the accused, Don Shooter.
When asked, "What does this vote mean - not just to Representative Shooter, but to the State of Arizona as a whole?" Stringer replied that sexual harassment in the workplace and discrimination of women, creating a hostile work environment are very important and legitimate issues and should be taken seriously.
"But the issue involving Mr. Shooter, is bigger than just Mr. Shooter," Stringer continued. "That’s why I was concerned about the process that we were following because we [the Arizona House of Representatives] were setting a precedent… If we’re going to take this really drastic, extreme step of expelling a legitimately elected representative, a duly elected representative from Yuma… We need to be sure what we’re doing. We need to be sure the process is transparent and fair to all people, and not just fair today."
Stringer cites several concerns:
- Representative Shooter was elected by the citizens in Yuma.
- The investigation was done by a reputable law firm, however it was not a legal proceeding.
- Witnesses were not under oath.
- Shooter was not allowed to face his accusers.
- Representatives were not given the opportunity to ask questions of those involved.
- Nothing Shooter was accused of doing was illegal, although it did violate House policy
- The Legislature is not allowed to be arbitary and capricious.
- The accusations go back as far as seven years.
- People were aware of this for years and took no action.
Stringer noted that as a Freshman Representative, he was being asked to make a decision on events that took place as far back as 2011, and said that it was "…very difficult for me to rationalize reaching back. Why didn’t the people who were in the Legislature at the time address these things? These things were well known and talked about, I understand."
"Nobody was upset about it at the time, but five years later, we’re supposed to be so upset that we expel him?" Stringer asked.
"My big concern about what we did… There was virtually no due process in our vote and the investigation," Stringer said.
Stringer said that both he and Representative Campbell agreed that Shooter’s conduct, "…was very, very inappropriate and offensive. You simply can’t condone the things he …is alleged to have said."
Listen to the interview with Representative Stringer here:
Now that Shooter's been expelled, what happens next?
State Precinct Committeemen in Shooter’s district came up with the names of three people to replace him. That list is forwarded to the County Board of Supervisors, who will make the final selection. Because the legislature is in session, this process will happen quickly, in order for Yuma to regain full representation.