State Rep. Josh Zepnick has been stripped of his Assembly committee posts after allegations became public that he drunkenly kissed two women without their consent.
Zepnick responded by saying he hopes the move is temporary and slamming “anonymous allegations all being done through news media reports.”
“There is still a U.S. Constitution that provides something called ‘due process’ where I have the right to defend myself,” Zepnick said in a statement issued Tuesday.
The allegations, made public in a Capital Times report last week, led to calls from the state Democratic Party and Assembly Democratic leadership for Zepnick, D-Milwaukee, to resign.
So far, Zepnick has refused.
The office of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Tuesday that Zepnick has been removed from five Assembly committees at the request of Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh.
Hintz said in a statement Tuesday that stripping Zepnick of his committee assignments is “one of the few disciplinary actions available to me as minority leader.”
“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,” Hintz said.
It was not immediately clear Tuesday if any further action would be taken. Assembly Democratic leaders could lock Zepnick out of party caucus meetings, push the Assembly to censure him, introduce a resolution calling for Zepnick’s expulsion or try to remove him through impeachment.
Zepnick’s statement said he hasn’t decided if he’ll seek re-election in 2018.
Zepnick didn’t show up Tuesday for a session of the Assembly Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations, on which he previously served. Zepnick also served on the Energy and Utilities, Family Law, Financial Institutions and Mental Health committees.
Instead, state Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, appeared in Zepnick’s place on the federalism committee.
“I was asked by leadership to be here,” Hebl told reporters. “I’m very happy and willing to serve on this committee, and I will do that as long as the leadership wants me here.”
The Capital Times reported last week that two women alleged Zepnick, who has served since 2003, kissed them without their consent at political events in 2011 and 2015. One of the women worked for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin at the time of the incident; the other was a legislative staffer.
In both cases, the women said Zepnick appeared to be drunk at the time. In 2015, Zepnick pleaded guilty to first-offense drunken driving.
Zepnick has said he is a recovering alcoholic and apologized for mistakes made during years of “irresponsible drinking.”
“There is still a U.S. Constitution that provides something called ‘due process’ where I have the right to defend myself.” State Rep. Josh Zepnick, D-Milwaukee