Expelled Arizona lawmaker cannot claim wrongful termination
PHOENIX (AP) — A Republican who became the first state lawmaker in the U.S. expelled after the emergence of the #MeToo movement cannot claim wrongful termination and seek damages for his ouster by the Arizona House, a judge has ruled.
Former Rep. Don Shooter sued the state earlier this year over his Feb. 1, 2018. ouster by a 56-3 House vote.
In a decision that may have future ramifications for other Arizona state lawmakers, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge said Dec. 20 that Shooter “is not entitled to assert a cause of action for wrongful termination” and suggested the legislative decision differed from an employer firing an employee.
The ruling noted that neither of two individuals singled out in the lawsuit for unspecified damages — state Sen. J.D. Mensard, who was House speaker at the time of the vote, and Kirk Adams, former chief of staff for Gov. Doug Ducey — were Shooter’s employer.
It said all the cases the lawsuit cited in support of wrongful termination “pertained to wrongful termination of employees by employees. None of those are applicable to this situation.”
Judge Theodore Campagnolo also pointed out in his decision that the Arizona constitution lays out the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers, and no one can exercise powers belonging to the others.
A fellow state House representative and the then-publisher of Arizona’s largest newspaper were among the many women who alleged Shooter subjected them to sexually inappropriate comments and actions. The lawmaker from the southern Arizona city of Yuma was elected to the Senate in 2010, and he moved to the House in 2016.
Shooter was known around the Capitol as a politically incorrect jokester who threw booze-fueled parties in his office on the last day of legislative sessions. He had acknowledged making “jarring, insensitive and demeaning” comments, but he denied the sexual harassment allegations.
The #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct spread widely in the fall of 2017, targeting men in Hollywood, politics and business.