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Bundgaard attorney wants three in ethics committee disqualified

Sen. Bundgaard's attorneys Mark Goldman (left) and Austin Woods unsuccessfully argue that the Senate Ethics Committee dismiss the investigation into their client. The ethics committee ultimately voted 3-1 to move forward with the investigation. (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

An attorney for state Sen. Scott Bundgaard demanded Monday that three of five Senate Ethics Committee members be disqualified from hearing a complaint against the lawmaker involving a February domestic violence incident.

Lawyer Austin Woods wrote a complaint that he said triggers a Senate rule requiring the replacement of the three committee members.

Woods’ complaint alleges Republican Sen. Ron Gould of Lake Havasu City and Democratic Sens. David Schapira of Tempe and Leah Landrum Taylor of Phoenix had made comments that showed bias against Bundgaard. He said their comments showed the three cannot be fair and impartial toward his client, a Peoria Republican.

According to Woods’ complaint, the comments included several statements in news reports that were attributed to Gould and at least one by Schapira. Woods also cited a previous complaint by Landrum Taylor against Bundgaard involving the February incident, which was dismissed as being premature.

“Sen. Bundgaard welcomes this investigation, but it must be fair and it must be impartial; neither is possible when these three senators have made a predetermination of guilt given their own prior, published statements,” Woods said in the complaint, a seven-page letter.

Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, is reviewing the lawyer’s complaint and will have a response before a scheduled Ethics Committee meeting Tuesday, Pearce spokesman Mike Phiilpsen said.

Gould, the Ethics Committee chairman, declined immediate comment on the lawyer’s complaint, saying he had not seen it.

The Ethics Committee voted 3-1 last week to conduct a formal investigation of the complaint that Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, filed against Bundgaard following an altercation between Bundgaard and Bundgaard’s former girlfriend.

Gallardo alleges Bundgaard broke Senate rules by violating state law and by engaging in conduct that reflects adversely on the Senate.

Gould and Landrum Taylor were among the three committee members who voted to investigate the complaint against Bundgaard. Schapira did not attend the meeting. The committee’s two other members split, with one voting in favor of investigating and the other against.

Bundgaard pleaded no contest Aug. 16 to a misdemeanor endangerment charge stemming from the Feb. 25 altercation on a Phoenix freeway.

Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, the endangerment charge will be dismissed if Bundgaard completes counseling through a domestic violence diversion program. Also, a misdemeanor charge of assault was dismissed under the plea agreement.

Bundgaard and his former girlfriend, Aubry Ballard, argued in his car while returning home from a charity dance.

Both had scratches and bruises and blamed the other for starting a physical altercation, but police said witnesses supported Ballard’s account that Bundgaard pushed or pulled her to the ground.

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