“I take the claims seriously:” Rep. Josh Zepnick apologizes amid accusations of sexual misconduct
MADISON — A Wisconsin Democratic state lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct says he’s sorry for his mistakes and will not be resigning from his post.
Rep. Josh Zepnick, who represents Milwaukee, said in a statement issued Friday night that he doesn’t remember the incidents alleged by two women but there is “never an excuse” for inappropriate behavior.
“I take the claims seriously and respect the women involved,” Zepnick said. “I apologize to both women for my actions and for any distress that I may have caused.”
A woman told The Capital Times that she was working at the state Democratic Party’s 2015 convention in Milwaukee when Zepnick became drunk and kissed her. Another woman described by the newspaper as a former legislative staffer said a drunken Zepnick kissed her during a 2011 party for a Senate recall candidate.
Both women requested anonymity, saying they were concerned about their jobs. Neither filed complaints at the time of the incidents but said they decided to tell their stories now in light of multiple women making similar accusations against other men.
Several state Democratic leaders called on Zepnick to step down, including Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz and Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairwoman Martha Laning.
Zepnick said he is a recovering alcoholic who made many mistakes during his years of “irresponsible drinking.”
“My life is back on track and I have been sober for over two years,” he said. “I will not be resigning and I will continue to work hard on behalf of my constituents.”
Hintz said in a statement that Zepnick should “take the appropriate action” and quit.
“Those who are willing to speak out about instances where they have been made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe will always have our full support,” Hintz said. “While we acknowledge Josh has taken steps to deal with his abuse of alcohol, his past actions should not be minimized. ”
Zepnick was first elected to the Assembly in 2002. He was arrested for drunken driving in October 2015. He pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a forfeiture, had his license suspended for six months and ordered to use an ignition interlock device for a year.