A state representative in Pennsylvania is refusing to resign amid accusations of sexual harassment, announcing that he plans to receive treatment at an inpatient facility instead.
Democratic state Rep. Mike Zabel announced on March 3 that he will not step down amid allegations that he sexually harassed union lobbyist Andi Perez outside of the Pennsylvania State Capitol building, Fox 43 reported. According to Perez, the incident occurred four years ago while she was discussing legislation with Zabel, who allegedly caressed her leg and did not stop even as she moved away from him, the outlet stated.
Perez reported the alleged harassment in 2019, but at the time House rules stated that sexual harassment claims could only be filed by House members and employees. In January, Perez fought to change that rule, by testifying before the legislature about the alleged incident, though she did not explicitly name Zabel at that time, ABC 6 Philadelphia reported.
In a letter to House Democrats, Zabel stated he was “very mindful of and saddened by the sensitive and disturbing allegations against me,” the outlet stated. Though he did step down from his position on the Judiciary Committee, Zabel has declined to give up his seat in the Pennsylvania legislature, telling lawmakers he is focusing, instead, on recovering from an unspecified illness.
Rep. Mike Zabel (D., Delaware) said he won’t resign, in a letter to his colleagues today. He will, however, resign from his spot on the Judiciary committee. He was accused in at least three reports this week of sexual harassment https://t.co/M2irqaWwNO pic.twitter.com/SARbSclOTe
— Gillian McGoldrick (@gill_mcgoldrick) March 3, 2023
“My illness has caused some behavior that I regret, and I agree that additional intervention is necessary for me to fully recover,” Zabel wrote in the letter. “I am in the process of securing additional intensive treatment, beyond the outpatient treatment I have been receiving, and am currently working with my health care providers and my family to identify an appropriate inpatient program which I will be entering as soon as possible.”
Perez’s union, the Service Employees International Union Pennsylvania State Council, has called on Zabel to resign. “We hope he gets the help he feels he needs, but he is correct — his behavior has no place in the Legislature and he should no longer be a member [of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives],” the union stated in a release obtained by Fox 43.
House Republicans have also called on Zabel to resign, stating that seeking medical attention does not release the representative from the responsibility of his alleged actions.
“At this point, we have only seen obfuscation, not accountability, from a Democratic caucus that has known about this conduct for years,” House GOP spokesman Jason Gottesman told the outlet. (RELATED: Democrat Accused Of Sexual Harassment: Pelosi Knew And Did Nothing About It)
Zabel stated he fully intends to cooperate with the House Ethics Committee and apologized to his fellow Democrats for putting them in a “difficult position,” the outlet reported.