Wisconsin state lawmaker faces call to resign amid sexual harassment complaint

Capitol in Madison (Getty Images)

MADISON — A Wisconsin Democratic state lawmaker midway through his first term in office should resign following a substantiated complaint that he sexually harassed a legislative employee, Assembly Democrats leaders and the state party chairman said Thursday.

Rep. Staush Gruszynski, from Green Bay, was the subject of an investigation by the Legislature’s human resources office, a statement from Assembly Democrats said. The complaint determined that Gruszynski “verbally sexually harassed a legislative employee while in an offsite location after work hours,” the Democratic leaders said. That was a violation of state Assembly policies, they said.

Gruszynski, 34, did not immediately respond to a message left at his Capitol office.

He was elected in 2018. He is one of 35 Democrats in the Assembly, which is controlled by Republicans with a 63-member majority.

Gruszynski will no longer be caucusing with Democrats, has lost his committee assignments and should resign, the leaders said. The Assembly is scheduled to return to work on Jan. 14 for the second year of the two-year session. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the Assembly is expecting to complete its work in February.

Gruszynski, along with all other Assembly members, is up for election again in 2020. He has not yet filed for re-election.

“As public officials and leaders of our caucus, we are committed to preventing and stopping incidents of harassment whenever they may occur in the Legislature,” the Democratic leaders said in the unsigned statement sent by Minority Leader Gordon Hintz’ office. “It’s our job to create a culture of accountability and to ensure members and legislative employees are held to a high standard of conduct. Rep. Gruszynski failed to meet these standards with his actions.”

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler called the report against Gruszynski “troubling” and also called for his resignation.

This is the first public case of sexual misconduct involving a state lawmaker since 2017 when then-state Rep. Josh Zepnick, a Democrat, was accused of kissing two women against their will. Zepnick refused calls to resign and was defeated in the 2018 primary.

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