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Don Shooter alleges conspiracy in claim notice

Rep. Don Shooter relaxes Feb. 1 before a historic vote of his colleagues to remove him from office. He was ousted by a vote of 56-3. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Rep. Don Shooter relaxes Feb. 1 before a historic vote of his colleagues to remove him from office. He was ousted by a vote of 56-3. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Expelled lawmaker Don Shooter alleges that the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives and staff members in Gov. Doug Ducey’s office conspired to remove him from office.

In a notice of claim submitted April 16, Shooter’s lawyer, Kraig Marton, alleged that Shooter was expelled to prevent him from uncovering “serious issues of malfeasance in state government contracts.”

“The evidence shows that Don Shooter was ousted, not for discriminatory conduct, but because after several years of discreetly yet repeatedly raising concerns to no avail, he escalated his efforts to stop questionable procurement practices and wasteful spending in state government,” Marton wrote. “He would not back off and made clear to the governor’s office and the speaker that he would soon be issuing subpoenas.”

The House of Representatives voted Feb. 1 to expel Shooter, a Yuma Republican, after an investigation initiated by the House found that he had sexually harassed several women, including a fellow lawmaker, and created a hostile work environment.

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 Arizona Capitol Times intern and the former publisher of the Arizona Republic, Mi-Ai Parrish.

The notice of claim did not mention any of the allegations made against him by the nine women in his claim.

A notice of claim is a legal document a person must file before pursuing a lawsuit.

In the notice of claim, Marton alleged that Shooter’s removal was “orchestrated” by House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, and Ducey’s Chief of Staff Kirk Adams.

Marton pointed to a 100-page exhibit detailing Shooter’s efforts to uncover problematic government contracts as evidence.

The information included in the exhibit is the same information included in a binder containing various allegations of questionable technology contracts awarded by the Arizona Department of Administration that Shooter provided to colleagues and news outlets immediately following his expulsion.

In the notice of claim, Marton wrote that Shooter was going to use his subpoena power as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee to investigate the allegations, and that he told the governor’s office about his plan. Instead, five days later, Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, became the first person to publicly accuse Shooter of sexual harassment, and he was later removed as appropriations chair.

Ugenti-Rita came out on social media on Oct. 19 about sexual harassment against her without naming Shooter, 14 days before Shooter met with the governor’s office.

Mesnard brushed aside Shooter’s claim as having no merit.

“The Arizona Constitution gives the Legislature broad powers when it comes to disciplining its own members, and Mr. Shooter’s expulsion was well within that authority,” the speaker said in a prepared statement. “It’s unfortunate that Mr. Shooter continues to blame others for the consequences of his own actions.”

Ducey press aide Daniel Scarpinato reacted in a similar fashion.

“These are desperate claims by a disgraced, ousted lawmaker,” he said. “We dispute them entirely.”

The notice of claim is a legal precursor to litigation.

Marton wrote that once the accusations were leveled against Shooter, Mesnard then violated House rules and protocols when conducting the investigation by applying the new harassment policy, that he claimed was never vetted or voted on by members, retroactively to Shooter. Many of the allegations against Shooter took place when he served in the Senate.

Marton also argued that Shooter was denied due process and other rights that he should have been afforded under state statutes and the Arizona Constitution.

He also claimed that the investigative report that was released on Jan. 30 was heavily redacted, incomplete and “intentionally devoid of material facts that are supportive and exculpatory of Mr. Shooter.”

Shooter is requesting that he be awarded $1.3 million in damages. The state has 60 days to respond to the notice of claim before he can formally sue.

“What began as an attempt to silence an outspoken critic of corruption in state government contracts turned into an all-out character assassination. Representative Shooter is entitled to have his name cleared, and it appears from the Speaker’s steadfast refusal to release information to the public or legislative members unless ‘required by subpoena’ that the only way to compel transparency and the truth is through litigation,” Marton wrote. “Mr. Shooter intends to vigorously defend his reputation, and to work to restore the damage caused by the actions described in this notice of claim.”

In an email sent to the Arizona Capitol Times that included a copy of the notice of claim, Shooter said he would not publicly comment on the notice of claim.

“However, in 61 days, when I file the formal lawsuits, there will be plenty to say,” he wrote.

Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.

This story was revised since its initial publication to include quotes from House Speaker J.D. Mesnard and Gov. Doug Ducey’s aide, Daniel Scarpinato, and remove extraneous information in paragraph 14.

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