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The investigation into sexual harassment claims at the state Capitol is underway

Posted at 8:26 PM, Nov 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-13 22:26:48-05

As the Arizona House of Representatives launched its official investigation into sexual harassment Monday, the primary lawmaker accused has switched attorneys. 

Attorney Melissa Ho spoke with ABC15, and said that she is no longer representing State Representative Don Shooter (R-Yuma).

A House Republican spokesman said Shooter is being investigated for 5 or 6 complaints; three come from current elected officials. The investigators will include a bipartisan group of House staffers, and an independent outside attorney.

State Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) was back to business Monday at a committee hearing.

She was the first to publicly accuse Shooter last week, and she chose not to speak to reporters about the developing sexual harassment case.

Shooter denied he did anything wrong, and said he also has asked for an investigation. 

Shooter is accusing Ugenti-Rita of pursuing a romantic relationship with a staffer. 

"I don't think it's appropriate to look at her personal relationships here at the Capitol when there was no policy against dating coworkers in the past," said House Majority Whip Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa).

Townsend who wants to lead the effort to create a fair, permanent policy to handle these kinds of complaints.

Townsend described the current flurry of allegations, and the investigation that started Monday, as "one of the things that will hopefully have a good outcome, but will be a messy process."

Townsend said she experienced sexual harassment at the Capitol in the past, but won't name who harassed her.  She also decided that she wants to opt out of participating in the current investigation.

"I don't see any reason to revisit it," Townsend said. "It's concluded, it's resolved, it's a painful issue for me, and I don't see the necessity of me going through it again."