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Lawmaker on the run from the law

LD29 Democratic Rep.-elect Ceci Velasquez. (Photo from campaign website)

LD29 Democratic Rep.-elect Ceci Velasquez. (Photo from campaign website)

Democratic Rep.-elect Ceci Velasquez is a wanted woman.

Florence Municipal Court records show that Velasquez has a warrant out for her arrest due to her failure to pay fines associated with a trio of traffic violations in 2010, when she was cited for driving on a suspended license, in a vehicle with suspended registration and no mandatory insurance.

Velasquez failed to appear in court in both August and September 2010, and again in April and May 2012, when her case finally went to trial.

She was sentenced in absentia in December 2012, and ordered to pay $2,284. But after she failed to make a $100 payment in August 2013, a court magistrate issued the bench warrant stating that there is “reason to believe the accused will not appear in response to a summons, or that a warrant is otherwise appropriate.”

Ceci Velasquez taking a “selfie” while in the driver seat of a car.

Velasquez takes a “selfie” while in the driver seat of a car.

A city of Florence spokesman confirmed that the warrant, which was issued more than a year ago, is still active. Velasquez’s driver’s license is suspended, according to a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Velasquez would not agree to a phone interview to discuss the issue, including whether she planned to turn herself in to police, or if she drove during her campaign.

“I made a mistake. This is a personal matter and it will be taken care of in a timely fashion so I can focus on getting to work come January,” she said in an emailed statement.

But Tyler Montague, president of the Arizona Public Integrity Alliance, said that when a lawmaker has a warrant out for her arrest, it becomes more than just a personal matter, and the public has a right to know.

“A personal matter is a medical or family issue. Breaking the law is not a personal matter, it’s a public matter. That’s outrageous,” he said.

The Arizona Public Integrity Alliance is a nonprofit that advocates for ethics laws and morality in politics.

Montague said if the public had known about Velasquez’s arrest warrant before the election, they might have chosen another candidate to represent them.

While voters are likely to forgive a speeding ticket or two, Velasquez’s string of tickets, coupled with the year-old outstanding bench warrant is beyond the pale of what the public should accept from a new lawmaker.

“People are going to find out and hold her accountable in the next election,” he said.

The charges that led to the warrant are not the first driving violations that have landed Velasquez in hot water.

Since 2008, she has been found guilty in Phoenix Municipal Court of not having valid insurance four separate times, and not having current registration two other times. She also failed to appear in court on charges of not changing her name and address on her license in 2010. She was most recently found guilty of speeding and failing to avoid a collision earlier this year.

Velasquez was elected to the second House seat in west Phoenix’s Legislative District 29 in November, and will be sworn in to the office in January.

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