Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs on Tuesday summarily dismissed the counter-complaint that Sen. Scott Bundgaard, R-Peoria, filed against three members of the ethics committee.
“I have reviewed your complaint,” Biggs wrote in a letter to Bundgaard. “… I find that the allegations do not constitute conduct that is unethical under the rules. Therefore, the complaint is dismissed.”
This means that the original ethics panel can now resume its work investigating whether Bundgaard breached ethics rules over a February fight he had with his then-girlfriend.
Biggs was acting as the panel’s temporary chairman when he dismissed Bundgaard’s counter-charge, which alleged that Sen. Ron Gould, the Republican chairman of the panel, and Democratic Sens. David Schapira and Leah Landrum Taylor had prejudged him. Bundgaard said he could not get a fair hearing with them on the committee.
Under Senate rules, two members of the committee can force the entire panel to consider a complaint after the chairman has summarily dismissed it. Those members have until October 7 to do so.
But that scenario is unlikely.
Meanwhile, Gould said the committee will have to wait until the third week of October to resume its hearing into Bundgaard’s actions in February, when he got into a fight with a girlfriend on the side of a Phoenix freeway. The scuffle ultimately cost Bundgaard his post as Senate majority leader and led to criminal charges.
Landrum Taylor won’t be available in the second week of October, and Gould said he wants all members to be present during the hearings.
The next hearing will be similar to a pretrial conference, where all sides will try to reach an agreement over the technical details involving evidence and witnesses to speed up the actual trial.
The original Ethics Committee earlier decided to formally investigate the complaint that Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, filed against Bundgaard following the domestic violence incident.
Gallardo alleged that Bundgaard broke Senate rules by violating state law and by engaging in conduct that reflects poorly on the Senate.
Bundgaard pleaded no contest Aug. 16 to a misdemeanor endangerment charge stemming from the Feb. 25 altercation.
Under a plea agreement with Phoenix prosecutors, the endangerment charge will be dismissed if Bundgaard completes one year of counseling through a domestic violence diversion program. Also, a misdemeanor charge of assault was dismissed under the plea agreement.
Bundgaard and the 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. Ballard was arrested that night, but Bundgaard was not. The police report says the senator invoked a constitutional provision that gives lawmakers immunity from arrest during the legislative session.