Assembly Democrats weighed potential punishments Monday for Rep. Josh Zepnick, after two women accused him of sexual misconduct, prompting legislative leaders to demand his resignation.
Emily Pritzkow, a spokeswoman for Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, said Hintz’s office was researching a possible course of action.
There are a number of options available to Hintz under Assembly rules, the state constitution and state law.
Hintz could unilaterally remove Zepnick from the committees he serves on and lock him out of party caucus meetings. He could push the Assembly as a whole to censure Zepnick, which would equate to a reprimand. He also could introduce a resolution calling for Zepnick’s expulsion. That process includes public hearings in which Zepnick could defend himself and would likely include testimony from his accusers. It would take a two-thirds vote by all Assembly members to remove him.
Hintz also could try to remove Zepnick through the impeachment process. A majority of Assembly members would have to vote to impeach him. That would trigger a trial before the state Senate. A conviction would require a two-thirds vote of the Senate. Once impeached, Zepnick would be expelled.
Zepnick has refused to step down. He didn’t reply to an email Monday seeking comment.
The Legislature last considered expelling a member in 2014, when Assembly Republicans discussed throwing out then-Rep. Bill Kramer after he was charged with sexually assaulting a political aide three years earlier. The Republicans scrapped the idea after Kramer announced he wouldn’t seek re-election.
The Capital Times reported Friday that two women who requested anonymity accused Zepnick of trying to kiss them without their consent.
One woman told the newspaper she was working at the state Democratic convention in 2015 when a drunken Zepnick kissed her. The newspaper described the other woman as a former legislative staffer. She said a drunken Zepnick kissed her during a 2011 party for a state Senate recall candidate.
Zepnick said in a statement he didn’t remember the incidents but still apologized to both women. He said he is a recovering alcoholic and he made many mistakes during his years of “irresponsible drinking.”