House Speaker J.D. Mesnard chose to remove Rep. Don Shooter from chairmanship and committee assignments following multiple confirmed sexual harassment allegations which led to his expulsion from the House on Thursday.
“A number of the allegations that were about crude comments, inappropriate gesturing, that sort of thing against women were substantiated,” Mesnard says. “That’s no small thing. There needs to be a message loud and clear that that’s no way to treat people especially as an elected official. We need to be held to the highest standard.”
There were discussions on what kind of consequence Shooter should face. First would be a reprimand, which Mesnard describes as a slap on the wrist. Above that is censure which is “a public criticism and shaming, really, of a legislator.” The last and final consequence is expulsion, which fully removes the individual from their chair. Mesnard initially put censure of Shooter on the table, but a vote on Thursday called for the representative to be expelled.
Senate President Steve Yarbough says the Senate has been “blessed to not have such serious issues.” He says they have taken a look at their own ethics policy and “reformed it with bipartisan effort.” Yarbough says he hasn’t heard any similar complaints that the House is dealing with because they have had a policy in place for the last 12 years.
“There’s not a lot in our rule book that says how we should conduct ourselves,” Mesnard says. “It’s sad that we have to put that out there. Clearly we must if people are misbehaving in that kind of way… I think it does help to rebuild confidence by the public of the legislature.”
There have been some requests of a statute of limitations for individuals who come forward with harassment claims. Mesnard says he has no plans to institute such a statute because he will always take the side of the victim.
Mesnard has also banned alcohol consumption on House property. Yarbough says he wouldn’t have a problem applying a prohibition, but he hopes it will not be necessary.