By Julia Shumway | Arizona Capitol Times
Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, the Scottsdale Republican who became the face of Arizona’s #MeToo movement when her claims led to a fellow lawmaker’s expulsion, sexually harassed a female lobbyist so severely it took a toll on the woman’s mental health and career, the lobbyist alleged in a sworn deposition.
The deposition was part of a motion filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on Jan. 31 in the defamation lawsuit and counter-lawsuit between Ugenti-Rita and former Rep. Don Shooter. The woman describes a pattern of harassment by Ugenti-Rita and her now-husband, former adviser to the governor Brian Townsend, over the summer of 2016 that led the lobbyist to believe the political power couple was trying to recruit her for a threesome. Repercussions from those unwanted advances led the woman to seek therapy, turn down job offers and miss work days, she said.
A year later, as the #MeToo movement took root in statehouses around the country, Ugenti-Rita detailed sexual harassment she encountered as a lawmaker, including suggestive comments about her body and an exposing yank on her dress at a legislative reception. After several other women, including two more lawmakers, joined her in accusing Shooter of a pattern of inappropriate behavior, the House expelled him in February 2018.
Independent investigators hired by the House heard the woman’s story, but did not include most of it in the report that damned Shooter. It became public on Tuesday, nearly two years to the day after his expulsion, when Shooter included her subpoenaed deposition in a defamation suit.
Ugenti-Rita declined to comment for this story.