The Arizona House on Tuesday split along party lines as majority Republicans turned back a Democratic attempt to immediately expel Rep. Daniel Patterson from the Legislature over allegations of domestic violence and behavior at the Capitol that left some lawmakers fearful.
However, the Republican-led chamber agreed to speed up the pending ethics case against the newly turned independent from Tucson.
The House set aside a Democratic leader’s motion to adopt the findings and recommendation of a report by Ethics Committee investigators who urged expulsion.
Instead, the House approved the proposal by the Ethics Committee’s chairman, Republican Ted Vogt of Tucson, to move up to April 10 the deadline for Patterson to submit a response to the report. The deadline had been April 16.
Patterson did not attend Tuesday’s floor session, but he later said in an interview that both proposals unfairly denied him due-process rights.
Patterson, who changed his affiliation to independent from Democrat on Monday, has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence charges in Tucson city court.
The ethics complaint filed against him by Democratic legislators stemmed from domestic violence allegations.
But the investigators’ report cites other alleged misconduct, including disrespectful and angry behavior toward other lawmakers. Affidavits among nearly 250 pages of documents released Tuesday include lawmakers’ descriptions of witnessing or experiencing episodes of bullying or threatening behavior by Patterson.
“This is a pattern of irrational and destructive behavior,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, in support of a fellow Democrat’s motion to expel Patterson.
“And it’s not getting any better … this report shows it’s only getting worse,” Campbell added later.
Rep. Cecil Ash, R-Mesa, said the expulsion motion by Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, was premature because Ash and other lawmakers hadn’t received or read the investigators’ report.
Campbell told reporters there was no need to wait to vote on expulsion but that he was willing to delay if Speaker Andy Tobin had agreed to allow Patterson to only enter the House for voting purposes and with a security escort.
“We have members sleeping with guns,” Campbell said, an apparent reference to Rep. Lynne Pancrazi’s statement to the investigators that she felt threatened by Patterson and kept a weapon nearby while sleeping. “We’re worried.”
Tobin earlier said security personnel were already keeping an eye on Patterson.
Patterson, in a telephone interview from Tucson, said he has been too “forceful” in dealings with others at the Capitol. However, “having too strong an approach at the Capitol is not unethical.”
Patterson also said, “I’m not a threat to anybody there.”
He later said in a Twitter post that he is “suspending” his re-election campaign and likely will not run again.
Vogt, the ethics chairman, defended the decision to not vote immediately on expulsion. “We have a process here and we need to follow the process because we’re not dealing with (only) this case here, but we’re dealing with future cases,” he said.
The documents released Tuesday include drafts of two ethics complaints that representatives contemplated filing against Patterson in the past.
One of the lawmakers, Republican Rep. Terri Proud of Tucson, said she decided it would be better if fellow Democrats took action. Democrat Tom Chabin of Flagstaff said he did not file his “because of the concerns of those involved in the altercations” with Patterson.
The Patterson case is the second high-profile ethics matter involving an Arizona legislator in a year.
Republican Scott Bundgaard of Peoria resigned from the Senate in January shortly before he was to testify in a hearing on whether he should be disciplined for a domestic violence incident involving a former girlfriend.
Bundgaard pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of endangerment under an agreement with prosecutors for dismissal of an assault charge.