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Dems say Patterson restrictions don’t go far enough

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (left) and House Speaker Andy Tobin (File photos)

An embattled Tucson lawmaker facing expulsion will have no greater access to the House of Representatives than the reporters covering the sordid saga of Rep. Daniel Patterson.

But the leading Democrat in the House says that’s not good enough. House Minority Leader Chad Campbell says he believes Patterson may become violent and he wants assurances that the Tucson legislator will be searched for weapons and escorted by security officers at all times while he is in the building.

“I just don’t get it. It’s not rocket science,” Campbell said. “That would solve all of our problems right there.”

Citing concerns by members of his caucus that Patterson may become violent, Campbell wrote a letter this morning to House Speaker Andy Tobin asking him to revoke Patterson’s electronic key card access to the building and only allow him on the House floor to vote with a security escort.

But Tobin said he doesn’t know what more he can do to mollify Campbell. Yesterday, he restricted Patterson’s access to the building and moved his office in the wake of an Ethics Committee report detailing his history of intimidating fellow lawmakers and staff.

“What else am I supposed to do? Ankle chains and a guillotine? Security’s been watching this guy for months,” Tobin said.

Tobin told Arizona Capitol Times today that Patterson’s electronic key card will now only grant him access to the second floor of the House of Representatives, and he will not be able to enter other secure areas in the building.

In March, the House implemented an unwritten policy banning accredited media from accessing legislative offices on the first- and third floors of the building and limiting their key card access to the House chambers on the second floor.

Tobin on Tuesday also moved Patterson’s office from a secured part of the building on the first floor – where he shared office space with other Democrats – to an unsecured area on the third floor. Patterson on April 2 changed his voter registration from Democratic to independent.

Tobin also said his office has received notice that Patterson, who has been absent from the Legislature this week, will not be at the Capitol for the rest of the week.

“I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do to (Patterson). The guy’s not coming around,” Tobin said.

Patterson told KFYI radio talk show host Mike Broomhead today that Campbell’s request and Tobin’s decision to limit his access to the building is “unethical” behavior under House rules.

“I would say that would be a completely hostile work environment and (it) makes it difficult for me to do my job,” he said.

Though Patterson’s conduct has yet to be taken up by the Ethics Committee, which commissioned the report released this week, Democrats on Tuesday made a motion on the floor for his expulsion. However, Republicans used a parliamentary maneuver to instead expedite the ethics proceedings.

Patterson now has until April 10 to respond to the report.

The Arizona Constitution allows the House and Senate to expel a member with a two-thirds vote.

If Tobin is unwilling to grant his requests, Campbell said Republicans should agree to remove Patterson from office.

“Solve the problem – expel him. That will make everything better,” he said.

But Tobin and other Republicans have expressed concerns that abandoning the ethics process would set a precedent that legislators could be punished without having the ability to defend themselves.

“The Democrats agreed to this process – long ago,” Tobin said.

On Feb. 27, Phoenix Democrat Rep. Katie Hobbs filed an ethics complaint against Patterson after he allegedly got into a physical altercation with an ex-girlfriend. The complaint was signed by every House Democrat except for the two that sit on the Ethics Committee.

Campbell said concerns about setting a precedent are a red herring and are potentially jeopardizing the safety of legislators and others.

“You know what precedent would be bad? If (Patterson) comes in here and shoots somebody,” he said.

In 2010, Patterson’s then-wife alleged in an application for a restraining order that the lawmaker has numerous unregistered firearms, including “hand guns, AK (47)s, shotguns (and) rifles.” In the court records, Jeneiene Schaffer said she was fearful that Patterson would harm her and the couple’s daughter.

Several Democrats have acknowledged they are bringing guns to the Capitol because they are scared of Patterson.

Patterson on Monday said claims that he was dangerous are “ridiculous” and accused his colleagues of making up stories for political gain.

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