Fansler still in as House tries to figure out his future

Capitol Building in Juneau, Alaska

JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) The Bethel House member accused of slapping a woman and breaking her ear drum after a drunken night out earlier this month remained in office Monday, though he’s been stripped of his staff.

Rep. Zach Fansler was asked to resign by his own caucus over the weekend after the assault accusation was published by the Juneau Empire. On Monday, the first business day after the news story, the House met in a rare January “technical session” that avoided discussion of the matter. Later in the evening his caucus met behind closed doors, emerging about 7 p.m. with little news to add.

Meeting with a small group of reporters after the caucus, House speaker Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, said the House majority is still awaiting a response from Fansler, a Bethel Democrat. Edgmon declined to say whether it would seek his expulsion if it didn’t like his answer.

“We have not made those decisions yet,” Edgmon said outside the caucus room.

But Edgmon noted that the last person expelled from the Legislature — Sen. George Hohman, also a Bethel Democrat — had been convicted by a court before his ouster over bribery in 1981. Fansler has not been charged with a crime, though authorities are believed to be investigating.

The Alaska Constitution gives each house the sole authority, on a two-thirds vote, to expel a member.

“We have asked for him to resign but have not heard back from him,” Edgmon said.

Earlier Monday, Edgmon gaveled the House into session for about two minutes before gaveling out. According to the Legislature’s librarian, it was the House’s first technical session in January in 11 years.

Technical sessions, in which the House or Senate takes roll but doesn’t conduct regular business, are common during special sessions because they fulfill the constitution’s mandate of meeting every three days. But they’re rare early in a session, when there’s often business to transact.

Some lawmakers complained that Edgmon was trying to avoid confrontations on the Fansler matter.

Fansler’s desk in the House chamber was empty. At his office, the light was on but he wasn’t there either. An aide said she had been asked to take the day off but decided to go to work anyway.

A leader of the House coalition, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, had stripped Fansler of all his staff over the weekend. She declined to comment Monday and postponed a meeting of the House Rules Committee. The Rules Committee decides on staffing levels for House members.

The leader of the House minority, Rep. Charisse Millett, said in an interview Monday that Fansler should leave office.

“It’s just behavior that shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone,” Millett said. “It makes no difference if you’re in office or not, he shouldn’t be doing that behavior, he shouldn’t be acting that way, he shouldn’t be treating another person that way, so personally, yeah, I think he should do the right thing, and I think he should resign.”

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