House Majority Coalition calls for representative to resign

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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The House Majority Coalition on Saturday called on another member of its caucus to resign, this time Rep. Zach Fansler, a Democrat from Bethel.

The Juneau Empire reports that Fansler allegedly hit a woman rupturing her eardrum during a drunken attack at a hotel room.

Wally Tetlow, an Anchorage based attorney representing Fansler, told Channel 2 that his client denies the allegations. Tetlow said no charges had been brought against Fandler and he did not believe the woman worked his client. According to Tetlow, Fansler has no immediate plans to resign.

In a four-paragraph statement, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, leader of the the majority coalition, said Fansler was under criminal investigation, but didn’t say for what. But the statement also praised an unnamed woman for coming forward and bringing allegations.

“I honor and am deeply grateful for her strength and courage and want to make clear our caucus will not tolerate this behavior,” Edgmon said in the prepared statement.

Edgmon, D-Dillingham, had called an emergency meeting Saturday of the other House leaders to discuss the matter. The statement said that more details couldn’t be released because of a “criminal investigation.”

“I understand the matter is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation and do not feel further comment is appropriate at this time,” Edgmon said.

Another member of the caucus from the Bush, Dean Westlake, from Kiana, resigned in December over sexual misconduct. His replacement,John Lincoln, was just approved last week.

Both Westlake and Fansler were freshman legislators and both were to face voters again in November. Fansler wasn’t immediately available Saturday. A message left on his cell phone wasn’t returned.

House Republicans, quick to respond to the difficulties in the rival House Majority coalition, issued a statement less than an hour after Edgmon.

“My heart breaks at the news that another woman has been victimized,” Rep. Charisse Millett, the minority leader and a Republican from Anchorage, said in the prepared statement. “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 Senate Democratic minority issued its own statement, praising the calls for Fansler’s resignation by House leaders. “The Senate Democrats commend the swift action of the House Majority Coalition today in demanding the resignation of Representative Fansler,” said the statement, attributed to Sen. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, the minority leader.

The Juneau Empire, in a report published Saturday, said it learned of the situation about a week ago, but withheld publication while Juneau police investigated.

The House majority leadership consists of seven members: Democrats Edgmon, Reps. Chris Tuck and Les Gara of Anchorage and Rep. Neal Foster of Nome, and three Republicans, Reps. Paul Seaton of Homer, Gabrielle LeDoux of Anchorage and Louise Stutes of Kodiak.

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