Lawmakers tell Fansler to turn in keys, but are not talking expulsion

JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Even as they demanded his office keys, lawmakers appeared to be at a loss about what more they could do about Rep. Zach Fansler, the Bethel Democrat accused of slapping a woman in a drunken night out and breaking one of her eardrums.

On Tuesday, Day 4 of the Fansler saga and the 15th day of the legislative session, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said Fansler had yet to respond to the House Majority Caucus, which had asked that he resign. But additional pressure was being put on him: Fansler was told to turn in his office keys, Edgmon said, and he already had his staff taken by the House Rules Committee, Edgmon said.

He said the question of expulsion wasn’t being actively considered and suggested that Fansler would have to be convicted of a crime to face that kind of consequence.

The situation erupted Saturday with the publication by the Juneau Empire of a story asserting Fansler assaulted the woman. The Empire didn’t give her name and she has not been identified publicly, but the Empire story said she didn’t work in the Capitol.

“Our majority coalition, in very short order, made the bold decision to ask for his resignation,” Edgmon told reporters. “We did that knowing that the criminal charges have yet to be filed in this event, and that we certainly respect his constitutional rights, and his right to privacy. As of today, Tuesday morning, we have not gotten a response from Rep. Fansler.”

Several times during the news conference, Edgmon used the word “yet,” not “if,” to describe whether Fansler would be charged criminally. Edgmon explained that the woman’s story sounded so credible that he thought criminal charges were likely.

But despite taking up most of the questions of a press conference that also featured discussion of education funding, Edgmon said the Fansler matter wasn’t too distracting for the Legislature.

“Distractions are a part of this business,” Edgmon said. “They come, they go. But the committees — if you look at the committee schedule — are very active and we have a lot of things going on as they normally would be going on, and so our eye is very much on the ball going forward.”

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