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Wisconsin Democrats call on Rep. Staush Gruszynski to resign over sexual harassment investigation

Wisconsin Democrats call on Rep. Staush Gruszynski to resign over sexual harassment investigation

Staush Gruszynski

Staush Gruszynski

The Assembly's top Democrats are urging one of their members to step down on the heels of an investigation that found he verbally sexually harassed a legislative employee. 

But while Rep. Staush Gruszynski, of Green Bay, apologized for his conduct, which he called "unprofessional and completely unacceptable," he indicated in a Thursday night statement he plans to continue serving in the chamber.  

The call comes after a probe launched by the Legislative Human Resources Office substantiated a complaint against the freshman Democrat. Details of the complaint and findings weren't immediately available for review. But a news release from Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said the incident happened at an offsite location after work hours.  

“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,” Hintz said. "Rep. Gruszynski failed to meet these standards with his actions."

In response to the investigation, Hintz said Gruszynski was stripped of his committee assignments, is no longer able to caucus with the Democrats "and should resign." 

State Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler echoed Hintz's words and praised Hintz's "swift and thorough response to this troubling report of sexual harassment."

"We have zero tolerance for sexual harassment at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and expect elected leaders to hold themselves to the same standard," he added. 

Gruszynski didn't address Hintz's comments but apologized for his own actions during the incident -- which he said happened in October "after drinking too much in a Madison bar" -- and said he's been attending counselling and "working on my continued sobriety" in the weeks since. 

"I need to be responsible for my actions and following that night I’ve taken steps with my family, and more importantly myself, to rebuild what I’ve broken," he said, adding: "My concern and focus at this time is my family, and how in the New Year I continue to move forward serving the constituents of the 90th district.”

A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Gruszynski would be removed from his committee assignments as Hintz had requested. 

Assembly Democratic leaders last session asked a different member of their caucus to resign in light of sexual misconduct allegations: former Rep. Josh Zepnick, of Milwaukee, who was accused of kissing two women without their consent at political events in 2011 and 2015. 

Zepnick in late 2017 declined to do so, though he was stripped of his committee assignments, and he ultimately failed to win re-election in 2018 after losing in an August primary. 

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Briana Reilly covers state government and politics for the Cap Times. She joined the staff in 2019, after working at Follow her on Twitter at @briana_reilly.

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