State Rep. Fansler resigns after alleged attack
State Rep. Zach Fansler has tendered his letter of resignation, nearly a week after news broke that he allegedly assaulted a woman last month.
House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham) sent a message to the House Friday that the Bethel Democrat had submitted a letter of resignation, in the wake of calls earlier this week from Edgmon to do so.
In a statement Friday, Speaker Edgmon said:
“Calling for Rep. Fansler’s resignation was the right thing to do given the severity of his alleged actions, but that does not mean that it was an easy thing to do because Zach was a committed and effective legislator for the people of House District 38." The circumstances that warranted Rep. Fansler’s resignation were unfortunate and show the problems in our state with domestic violence and alcohol abuse. I want to thank Rep. Fansler for his service. I also want to thank all of the victims who have braved so much in coming forward. We can all take heart in their bravery.”
Fansler said he was stepping down "with great sadness," according to the letter. His effective departure date from the Legislature will be Feb. 12.
"My constituents need a representative who can devote her or his full attention toward advocating on matters of great import to the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta," Fansler wrote. "Unfortunately, I am unable to do so at this time."
The Associated Press reported that Fansler's attorney, Wally Tetlow, said Fansler is "completely innocent" of the allegations against him. He said the initial reporting was misleading.
Alaska's House Republicans issued a statement in response to his resignation:
“House Republicans appreciate the resignation of Representative Zach Fansler (D-Bethel) today following the accusation made against him recently. There is absolutely no excuse for dating violence. It cannot be tolerated. Our members are proud of victims who have taken courageous steps to report such vile behavior. Our thoughts remain with all of those who have suffered dating violence and domestic violence. House Republicans hope the region of Alaska Rep. Fansler served, District 38, will soon find a new representative to both uphold the Alaska constitution and respect all Alaskans.”
The Alaska Democratic Party Chair Casey Steinau said in a statement:
"We thank Representative Zach Fansler for his service to his constituents in House District 38 and believe he made the right decision to resign. Alaskans demand our elected officials be held to the highest of standards and when the public trust has been violated, it is important for that trust to be restored."
Fansler initially refused to resign and denied the allegations, reported Saturday in the Juneau Empire, that he punched a woman and broke her eardrum after a night of drinking on Jan. 13. Juneau police have declined to release any investigative details regarding the alleged encounter this week.
Fansler becomes the second House Democrat to leave the Legislature after former Rep. Dean Westlake surrendered his Kiana seat in December, over revelations that he fathered a now-grown daughter with a 16-year-old girl.
John Agnaqluk Lincoln was sworn in this week to replace Westlake, after Gov. Bill Walker and House Democrats confirmed him to the vacant House District 40 post.
Steve Quinn contributed information to this story.
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