- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Republican Assembly leaders on Thursday sent embattled Rep. Bill Kramer a letter demanding his resignation, but did not say they would push to expel him from the Legislature before his term is up at the end of the year.

Speaker Robin Vos’s office issued a statement following a meeting with GOP leaders to discuss Kramer after he was charged last week with two felony counts of sexual assault after he was accused of groping a woman following a 2011 Republican fundraiser.

The statement said if Kramer refuses to resign, voters in his district could proceed with recalling him from office, a procedure that would take months. The statement does not mention the possibility of lawmakers moving ahead with kicking Kramer out of office, something Vos earlier said was being considered.

Republicans unanimously removed Kramer last month as Assembly majority leader following separate accusations that he groped a legislative aide following a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., and harassed a female lobbyist.

In the wake of those accusations, Kramer said he checked himself into a treatment facility and said he wouldn’t run for re-election in the fall. But he has refused to step down from his job, which pays $49,943 a year.

Kramer’s attorney, James Gatzke, said the call for Kramer to resign is premature. Republicans are essentially asking Kramer to abandon his constitutional rights to due process and the presumption that he’s innocent until proven guilty, Gatzke said.

“I don’t think any clear-thinking representative would seriously expect a member of the Legislature (to) abandon his constitutional rights, the same rights they all swore to uphold, protect and defend,” Gatzke said.

Republicans’ suggestion that Kramer’s constituents recall him is “counterintuitive to an understanding of Mr. Kramer’s constitutional rights,” Gatzke said.

The process to recall a sitting legislator would take months. First, petitioners would have up to 60 days to gather signatures from residents in his district equal to 25 percent of the votes cast in the 2010 gubernatorial election. Then, the Government Accountability Board would have 30 days to determine whether enough signatures were gathered, but it could get an extension.

If the board determines there are enough signatures, then it would set an election six weeks later. However, if more than two candidates run, that would be the primary and the general election would be four weeks after that.

That would likely mean any recall election couldn’t be held until August or later, when Kramer’s term is nearly over.

The statement from Assembly Republicans said Kramer has “lost the confidence and trust of his colleagues and has brought disgrace to the institution and the state.” It also said Kramer has been stripped of his assignments serving on the Financial Institutions and Law Revision committees. The move is largely symbolic, as the Assembly adjourned for the year last month.

“We believe the criminal charges against Rep. Kramer are credible and his alleged actions are reprehensible,” the statement from Vos’s office said. “These are serious accusations and with respect to the alleged victim, we believe the criminal process should proceed without interference.”

Expelling Vos would require a public hearing in which he could defend himself, a process that would likely involve testimony from the alleged victim. Two-thirds of the Assembly would then have to vote to kick him out.

If convicted of a felony, Kramer would immediately be removed from office.

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Associated Press writer Todd Richmond contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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