State Rep. Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, has been stripped of his committee assignments in the state Assembly following allegations he kissed two women without their consent at political events in 2011 and 2015.
"As our leadership team indicated in our statement last Friday, we take the allegations made against Representative Zepnick very seriously," said Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, in a statement Tuesday morning. "Yesterday I took one of the few disciplinary actions available to me as Minority Leader and removed Representative Zepnick from his assigned committees. Moving forward, I will consult with members of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, as well as the majority party, to ensure this issue is addressed in an appropriate manner."
In accordance with Assembly rules, Hintz requested Zepnick's removal with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who approved the request.
Hintz and his Democratic leadership team have called on Zepnick to resign following the allegations, reported Friday by the Cap Times. They are joined in that request by Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairwoman Martha Laning and the two women who accused Zepnick of misconduct.
Assembly GOP leaders have called Zepnick's behavior "reprehensible" and "unacceptable," and said he must decide what is best for his constituents and the Legislature.
Zepnick has said he will not resign. He initially responded to the allegations by saying he had never been confronted about any such behavior until asked Friday morning by the Cap Times. He did not respond for several hours to a text message asking to clarify whether he denies the claims, then issued a statement late Friday night apologizing for his behavior.
Zepnick said he had no recollection of the incidents, but added that as a recovering alcoholic, he has apologized for mistakes made during years of "irresponsible drinking." He said his life is "back on track" with two years of sobriety.
The news of the disciplinary action against Zepnick comes after a report on Monday by the Wisconsin State Journal that state taxpayers paid $75,000 in 2015 to an aide to former state Sen. Spencer Coggs, D-Milwaukee, who complained of sexual harassment, discrimination and wrongful termination.