Following allegations of sexual misconduct in 2011 and 2015, Rep. Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, was removed from his committee assignments and called on by members of his party to resign, but refused to do so.
The allegations against Zepnick were made public by The Cap Times Friday when two women associated with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin came forward with stories of how Zepnick had drunkenly kissed them at political events in 2011 and 2015.
In a statement Saturday, Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and the Assembly Republican leadership called the allegations “reprehensible.”
“As the leaders of the Assembly, we take accusations of sexual harassment and assault seriously,” the statement read. “These latest allegations are no different. Rep. Zepnick’s behavior was reprehensible and conduct that’s unacceptable for any human being, let alone a state representative.”
Wisconsin legislator accused of kissing two women without consentTwo women have accused Rep. Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, of kissing them without their consent. According to The Capital Times, the Read…
Currently, the Assembly does not publicly release information about sexual harassment complaints lodged against representatives.
In an email to The Badger Herald, Rep. Melissa Sargent said it is important to have conversations about the issue and pursue transparency in instances of sexual assault.
“It’s critical that we continue having frank, honest conversations about this pervasive problem of sexual harassment and assault, and the use of power and influence to victimize others,” Sargent said. “Equally important is that these conversations materialize into meaningful actions and changes that promote transparency and protect survivors while also holding perpetrators accountable.”
The Republican leadership called on Zepnick to reexamine whether he could effectively serve his constituents in light of these allegations and to do what’s best for his constituents and the Wisconsin State Legislature as a whole.
Despite the calls for Zepnick’s resignation from members of his own party, he has thus far refused to resign. Vos announced Tuesday, however, that Zepnick had been removed from his committee positions at the request of the Democratic Assembly leadership.
Zepnick was not seen at a Tuesday meeting of the Assembly Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations, of which he is a member. Instead, Rep. Gary Herbl, D-Sun Prairie, was seen in his stead. Herbl told reporters he believed the change in committee membership to be permanent.
Shortly before the allegations against Zepnick were first published in The Capital Times, the Assembly leadership — Vos and Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh — announced they will not change current policy regarding sexual harassment complaints in light of the continuing national conversation regarding the issue.
Milwaukee Rep. accused of kissing women without consent stripped of committee positionsFollowing allegations of sexual misconduct in 2011 and 2015, Rep. Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, was removed from his committee assignments and Read…
Sargent said that policy changes might not be enough and that a change of “culture” may be necessary to seriously address the issue.