Embattled state Rep. Mike Zabel sent a letter to the Democratic Caucus saying that he is resigning from the judiciary committee and stepping down from his assignments. He blames an undisclosed illness for his behavior.
However, he will not resign from the legislature as Republicans have demanded.
Zabel (D-Drexel Hill) has been accused of sexual harassment by several women, including 32BJ SEIU lobbyist Andi Perez and Colleen Kennedy, Zabel’s former campaign manager.
Both women claimed that Zabel inappropriately touched them. Another female representative who remains anonymous also described troubling behavior.
In his letter, Zabel claims that he has an “illness” that he is being treated for as an outpatient and that he plans to enter an inpatient program “as soon as possible.”
“My illness has caused some behavior that I regret, and I agree that additional intervention is necessary for me to fully recover. 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,” Zabel said.
“I sincerely appreciate your commitment to ensuring the district offices of the 163rd Legislative District remain open and available to serve constituents while I take this time to focus on my health and family. My goal has always been to serve the people of my district in the best way possible and I am confident that they are in good hands during this difficult time.”
Zabel added, “I was proud to vote for our new House Rules this week, which include expanded protections for sexual harassment claims. I am grateful for the leadership shown by my caucus to ensure a fair process for reviewing such claims. I will cooperate fully with the Ethics Committee in considering any allegations against me.”
The House Democratic leaders released this response: “While Rep. Zabel has declined to resign, we agree that it is appropriate for him to take a step back from his work and focus on the challenges before him.
“Stepping back includes resigning from the Judiciary Committee, not taking other committee assignments, and entrusting the Democratic Caucus with constituent services for people of 163rd legislative district.”
House Democrats for the first time have created a process for handling claims of harassment and discrimination through the enactment of new rules and expect the newly empowered Ethics Committee to thoroughly and expeditiously review any and all claims that come forward. To that end, next week, the Ethics Committee website will be updated with information and procedures on how individuals can submit claims. Everyone deserves to be safe at work and our caucus commends and respects the courage of those who come forward.”
Jason Gottesman, press secretary to House Republican Leader Bryon Cutler sent this response, “While it is appropriate for Rep. Zabel to seek treatment and whatever medical attention he needs, it does not eliminate the culpability for his actions. At this point, we have only seen obfuscation, not accountability. We remain committed to our prior statement calling on him to resign.”