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Number of women who accuse Rep. Shooter of sexual harassment climbs

This Feb. 14, 2017, file photo shows Arizona state Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, on the House floor at the Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Bob Christie,File)

This Feb. 14, 2017, file photo shows Arizona state Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, on the House floor at the Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Bob Christie,File)

Another woman has joined a groundswell of sexual harassment allegations against a prominent Republican state lawmaker.

Tara Zika, a 26-year-old business development director at risk management firm Ashton Tiffany, said Shooter, 65, made inappropriate sexual comments and gestures at her several times over the course of one day at the League of Arizona Cities and Towns conference in August 2017.

Zika reached out to the Arizona Capitol Times after previous reporting of women who experienced harassment from Shooter, who chairs the Arizona House’s budget committee.

In total, nine women have alleged some type of inappropriate behavior by Shooter, ranging from sexually charged comments to unwanted touching. The women include three lawmakers, lobbyists, a former Capitol Times intern and the publisher of the Arizona Republic, Mi-Ai Parrish.

After the allegations became public, the Arizona House started investigations into the alleged incidents and suspended Shooter from his duties as the House appropriations chairman.

Tara Zika

Tara Zika

Zika said she initially didn’t know who Shooter was. He was standing with a handful of other men when they waved her over to their table. As she was walking over, Shooter blew her a kiss, and he made a sexually suggestive comment about her legs, she alleges. She immediately turned around and left.

She later walked by Shooter. Zika alleges Shooter made a crude remark about wanting to have sex with her. He tried to pretend he didn’t say anything and acted playfully, she said. She rolled her eyes and kept walking away, she said.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

As she was walking away, she got nervous he may be following her to her hotel room, so she turned around to make sure he wasn’t, Zika said.

She saw him make a gesture meant to mimic oral sex on a woman, she alleges.

She didn’t let it go. She walked back to him and told him he was being creepy and disrespectful. He asked if she knew who he was, but she replied that it didn’t matter — his behavior was unacceptable regardless of who he was, she said.

He then apologized, saying he didn’t realize she was so sensitive, she said. She told him not to speak to her or look at her again.

During the rest of the conference, he would mock her whenever he saw her by throwing up his hands in a surrendering gesture and saying he “wasn’t doing anything,” she said.

“It’s undermining and it’s humiliating,” she said.

Two sources, Zika’s boyfriend and a friend, who did not want to be named for this story, confirmed she told them about the incident with Shooter shortly after it happened. They both said she called them and was upset with what had happened.

Additionally, Zika sent the Capitol Times screenshots of text messages she sent to a colleague the day after the incidents occurred specifically identifying Shooter, by photo, as the person she encountered at the conference.

Melissa Ho, the attorney Shooter had hired to represent him, told the Capitol Times today that she was no longer representing him. Shooter’s new attorney, Daniel Pasternak of Squire Patton Boggs, did not respond to a request for comment.

This is the second instance of harassment alleged to have occurred at a League of Arizona Cities and Towns conference by Shooter.

One woman previously told the Capitol Times that Shooter grabbed her buttocks at a League conference in 2015, which another conference attendee corroborated.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard suspended Shooter from his role as chairman of the powerful House Appropriations committee Friday as multiple investigations into the allegations against Shooter continue. While an in-house bipartisan investigative team was initially tasked with looking into the allegations, Mesnard said outside investigators will be hired based on the “number and nature” of the claims against Shooter.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry also said Friday it believes Shooter should resign. Chamber spokesman Garrick Taylor said the group supports Mesnard’s decision to investigate all claims of harassment as a way to make it clear elected officials should be held to high standards.

For Zika, staying silent wasn’t an option. While she said she does fear retaliation for speaking out, she doesn’t want the behavior to be allowed to continue.

“This isn’t right to subject women to this type of environment and dismiss it. It’s not right,” she said.

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