The Republican Assembly leadership on Thursday called on Rep. Bill Kramer to resign immediately but took no steps to remove the lawmaker, who has been charged with felony sexual assault and accused of two incidents of sexual harassment.
“You have lost our confidence and trust,” 13 leaders said in a letter to Kramer, R-Waukesha.
Kramer, 49, was removed from his post as Assembly majority leader in March after alleged incidents in which he groped one woman and made inappropriate comments to another during a fundraising trip to Washington, D.C., in late February. One of the women was a legislative aide, the other was a lobbyist.
In addition, last week, Kramer was charged with two counts of second-degree sexual assault for an incident in 2011 in which he allegedly groped an unnamed political aide following a Republican gathering in Muskego.
“Your actions in February made it clear to us that you were not fit to be a leader in our caucus,” said the letter, written by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and other leaders. “The new allegations are reprehensible and your response to them is troubling.”
But the leadership stopped short of initiating removal proceedings, instead saying that residents of Kramer’s Waukesha County district are free to recall him from office. Kramer, who is not running for re-election, finishes his term at the end of the year. The position pays $49,943 annually.
Kramer’s attorney, Jim Gatzke of New Berlin, said his client plans to continue serving his term.
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“Bill Kramer is entitled to the same rights as everyone else in this state and in this country. Foremost among those is the right to have allegations against him heard by a court of competent jurisdiction in a manner involving the proper exercise of due process,” Gatzke said in an email.
He added that “while I understand that there are those in the Assembly who would prefer to deny Mr. Kramer those rights, I am reasonably confident that a clear thinking majority of the Assembly understands that they have sworn to defend, preserve and protect those rights in their very own oaths of office and that they will understand Mr. Kramer’s intent to do so.”
Vos and Assembly Majority Leader Pat Strachota, R-West Bend, also said in a statement that Kramer has been removed from all committee duties.
“We believe the criminal charges against Rep. Kramer are credible and his alleged actions are reprehensible,” the two said. “These are serious accusations and with respect to the alleged victim, we believe the criminal process should proceed without interference.”
According to a summary prepared by the Legislative Reference Bureau, 17 sitting lawmakers were charged and convicted between 1939 and 2010 of felony or misdemeanor crimes, including sexual assault, misconduct in office for illegally using state staff to conduct political campaigns and accepting kickbacks.
If Kramer is convicted of one or both of the felony sexual assault charges, he would be constitutionally barred from office upon sentencing. A strong gun-rights advocate who sometimes presided over the Assembly while armed, he also would be barred from possessing firearms.