Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, is questioned by reporters about Rep. Zach Fansler, D-Bethel, at the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. Rep. Fansler has been accused of striking a woman in his hotel room last week. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)  Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, is questioned by reporters about Rep. Zach Fansler, D-Bethel, at the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. Rep. Fansler has been accused of striking a woman in his hotel room last week. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, is questioned by reporters about Rep. Zach Fansler, D-Bethel, at the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. Rep. Fansler has been accused of striking a woman in his hotel room last week. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire) Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, is questioned by reporters about Rep. Zach Fansler, D-Bethel, at the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. Rep. Fansler has been accused of striking a woman in his hotel room last week. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Troubled Rep. Zach Fansler has not told House Majority if he will resign or not

A battery of cameras surrounded Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon on Tuesday morning, but they and the reporters behind them failed to reveal any new information about the immediate future of Rep. Zach Fansler.

Four days after the Juneau Empire published details of an alleged assault by the Bethel Democrat, it remains unclear whether he will resign.

“As of today, Tuesday morning, we have not gotten a response from Rep. Fansler, but we respect the fact that it’s a serious decision for him and it’s a decision that may take him some time to make,” Edgmon said.

Fansler’s attorney did not return multiple calls from the Empire on Monday and Tuesday but previously said that Fansler would not resign.

In a Tuesday morning press conference, Edgmon said Fansler’s office keys have been taken from him, his staff has been reassigned, and the House Majority is calling for his resignation, but the coalition that leads the House of Representatives is still waiting on a response to that call. 

Edgmon confirmed that House lawmakers discussed removing Fansler from office during a two-hour closed-door meeting that took place Monday night, but they ultimately decided to give Fansler time to reach a decision on his own.

The speaker pointed out that the only Legislative expulsion in Alaska history came in 1982 after a lawmaker was convicted of attempting to bribe another lawmaker, and Fansler does have legal rights of due process that must be acknowledged.

While the House Majority is not yet forcing Fansler out of the Legislature, it isn’t ignoring the issue either, he said. Merely asking for a resignation is significant.

“To ask for his resignation, again, it’s a bold step. It’s something we acted fairly definitively and fairly quickly on,” he said

Fansler remained absent from the Capitol on Tuesday. He has not been seen in the building since Thursday. The Juneau Police Department has not yet finished its criminal investigation, and the Empire’s request for the case file has not yet been filled.

On Saturday, the Empire reported that a Juneau woman has alleged she was slapped multiple times by Fansler, who ruptured one of her eardrums in the process. The woman said the attack took place Jan. 13, and according to the case number assigned to the incident, she filed a complaint with the Juneau Police Department on Jan. 19, after a visit to an ear, nose and throat specialist in the capital city.

The woman spoke to the Empire on Jan. 20, but the Empire withheld publication to allow police to complete their investigation. The Empire decided to publish the story online Saturday after being told by two sources that the governor’s office and members of the House majority were aware of the allegation and preparing to take action.

The allegation involving Fansler is the third serious incident involving an Alaska legislator in the past year. In December, Rep. Dean Westlake, D-Kotzebue, resigned from the Legislature after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. His replacement, John Lincoln, is scheduled to be sworn into office on Wednesday morning, Edgmon said.

Also in 2017, a story by political blogger Jeff Landfield sparked an investigation into Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla. The investigation found Wilson did not violate federal law but did create an “uncomfortable situation” with actions toward a House staffer.

On Wednesday, the Alaska Senate’s rules committee is expected to release the results of a second investigation into Sen. Wilson’s activities. The rules committee is scheduled to meet immediately after the conclusion of the Senate floor session.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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