State Senator Scott Bundgaard, facing an ethics complaint and possible expulsion from the Senate for his roadside fracas with his now former girlfriend and his invocation of legislative immunity, has filed an ethics complaint against three members of the state Senate Ethics Committee, which is currently set to hold hearings on Bundgaard in October.
This, according to Democratic Senator David Schapira and Republican Senator Ron Gould, who is chairman of the committee. The complaint is also directed against Democratic Senator Leah Landrum Taylor.
Gould told me he had been informed of this via text from state Senate counsel and has not yet viewed the complaint. He related that as ethics committee chair he has the authority to dismiss frivolous complaints, but he's not sure if he can do that in a case involving himself.
"I'll have to give it some thought," he said. "It's definitely interesting...Every time I turn around we're standing on untrod ground."
The complaint is highly ironic given that Bundgaard's lawyer Austin Woods has been quoted as saying that his client "welcomes" the committee's inquiry into his actions.
This latest move comes just two days after Woods sent a letter to state Senate President Russell Pearce, asking that Pearce boot Gould, Taylor and Schapira off the committee, because they've supposedly said mean things about the former Majority Leader.
The local Republican blog Politico Mafioso has published that letter, which you can read, here.
But the Senate President declined to come to Bundgaard's rescue, though Pearce had previously defended his wayward political son, infamously declaring that Bundgaard was the "victim" in the incident, which has since resulted in Bundgaard pleading nolo contendere to a misdemeanor endangerment charge and being placed in a domestic violence diversion program.
In his response letter to Woods made public yesterday, Pearce wrote:
"Pursuant to Rule 5, Senate Ethics Committee Rules of Procedure (Rules), an ethics complaint must be in writing, signed by the person filing the complaint, notarized and filed with the Chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee. In addition, the complaint must contain a statement of fact within the personal knowledge of the complainant describing the alleged unethical conduct, the law or Senate Ethics rule that is alleged to have been violated and all documentation alleged to support the complaint.
"The letter I received from your office did not satisfy the Rule 5 requirements, and as such does not qualify as an ethics complaint. For that reason, I am not compelled by the Rules to remove any of the members of the Senate Ethics Committee. Your letter also contains some misunderstandings of the law and Rules: many of your legal citations relate to the Judiciary and not to the Senate Ethics Committee. Since the complaint was not properly filed, those errors are rendered moot in this instance."
Of course, Bundgaard's legal beagle didn't really expect papi Pearce to step in. See, not only was the complaint letter not properly filed, as Pearce points out. It was also leaked to the media before some members of the ethics committee caught a look at it.
Gould told me he learned of Woods' Monday letter from a reporter.
"Rose & Allyn sent it out in a press release," Gould told me, adding, "[A reporter from KTAR] called me about 8:30 [Monday night]. I'm in Parker on my way down to my session house in Phoenix...I said I can't really comment on the letter because I haven't seen it, but he forwarded me a copy."
Gould called the complaints in the letter "silly," and noted that the state statute cited therein refers to superior court -- specifically seeking a change of judge in a civil action. He also noted that it was strange that Bundgaard utilized a PR firm to publicize the letter.
"That is odd that you'd have a PR company put out a press release [on this matter]," he told me.
Well, not if you're Bundgaard, and your BFF is local spinmeister Jason Rose. What better way to invalidate the work of the ethics committee before it has even begun hearings than by floating the notion that the committee's out to get Bundgaard?
BTW, I've e-mailed everyone at Rose, Moser and Allyn asking for a comment, or a confirmation or denial. I also called Rose and Woods. So far, no response.
If Rose, Bundgaard, Bundgaard's lawyer or anyone else, really thinks they can salvage the former state Senate Majority Leader's reputation and political career through these sorts of shenanigans, I'll have a puff of what they're tokin'.
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Bundgaard can only mitigate this mess by resigning and fading into obscurity. Otherwise, he will continue to bathe in the contempt that the public, his colleagues and the press correctly have for him.
UPDATE 9/22/11: State Senator Russell Pearce issued the following statement today about the matter.
"Today I received a letter from the Senate Rules Attorney (attached), informing me that three members of the Ethics Committee were recusing themselves from the Committee while the panel considers an ethics complaint filed against the three on September 20, 2011. The letter also explains that under Senate Ethics Committee Rule 17, as President of the Senate, I have no choice: I am required to temporarily replace the three members.
"Therefore, I am announcing the appointments of Senator Linda Gray, Senator Robert Meza and Senator Jack Jackson, Jr. to the Senate Ethics Committee. Committee member Senator Andy Biggs will serve as Ethics Committee Chair while the three members are temporarily replaced. Senator Biggs is leaving early Friday morning for a commitment at Harvard University. When he returns on Monday he will meet with staff attorneys on this matter."