Fansler refuses call to resign after alleged beating
A Bethel lawmaker isn't planning to resign despite a call to do so from the state House’s leaders, following allegations that he struck and injured a woman earlier this month.
The Juneau Empire reported Saturday that Rep. Zach Fansler (D-Bethel) was under investigation, following a Jan. 13 attack in which Fansler struck a woman after a night of drinking and broke her eardrum.
In a statement Saturday afternoon, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham) called for Fansler’s resignation, citing credible information that Fansler had possibly behaved in a manner unbecoming of a legislator.
“Upon seeking out and verifying further information of the incident and meeting with caucus leadership, I have requested his resignation,” Edgmon wrote. “I understand the matter is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation and do not feel further comment is appropriate at this time.”
Juneau police declined comment Saturday on any criminal charges against Fansler.
According to the Associated Press, Fansler's lawyer Wally Tetlow said Saturday that he denied the allegations, adding that a text message between Fansler and the victim had been incompletely reported and that he was not planning to step down.
Reached Saturday evening by KTVA, Tetlow reiterated that message.
“Those messages were taken out of context," Tetlow said. "There’s also a pending criminal investigation at this time, so that’s all we can say at this time.”
Jay Parmley, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party which came under fire for its vetting of candidates after the resignation of Rep. Dean Westlake, said Tetlow's denial didn't affect the call for Fansler's departure.
"Zach’s lawyer has every right to say whatever Zach’s lawyer wants to say, but that doesn’t change the position of the Speaker and it doesn’t change the position of party individuals," Parmley said. "Zach is an individual, he’s clearly retained a lawyer, he can work through that process, but it doesn’t really change the fact that these allegations are terribly serious and the Speaker has already made the determination that he should resign -- and I think that’s appropriate."
The state Senate's Democratic minority issued a statement Saturday approving of the House leadership's "swift action" regarding the matter.
"The actions described in the news reports are deeply troubling and undermine the trust of his constituents and his colleagues," Sen. Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage) said in the statement. "Whenever an act like this occurs, the accused needs to be held accountable."
State Rep. Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage) issued a statement on behalf of the House's Republican minority.
“My heart breaks at the news that another woman has been victimized," Millett said. "The details of the report were graphic, unsettling and difficult to read. Reports of dating violence, sexual assault and harassment must not be tolerated anytime, anyplace and by any person, no matter their position or title. While I do not know who this victim is, I commend her for not remaining silent. My thoughts and prayers are with the victim recovering from her attack."
The call for Fansler to resign comes a month after Westlake stepped down from his post, amid a firestorm of controversy over alleged improper advances toward women in the state Capitol. His resignation came the same day KTVA aired an interview with Joslynn Little, Westlake’s daughter born to a 16-year-old girl he had impregnated.
On Thursday, House Democrats approved Gov. Bill Walker’s selection of NANA Regional Corp. vice president John Agnaqluk Lincoln to fill Westlake’s seat.
Monday morning, Fansler's office lights were on, however, the door was locked and no one answered.
Liz Raines contributed information to this story.
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