State senators say Majority Leader Scott Bundgaard’s plea to fellow Republicans to let him keep his leadership post included information that his ex-girlfriend handled a gun in his car during their altercation on a Phoenix freeway.
Two Republican senators on Wednesday discussed what was said during the closed majority caucus held Tuesday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because it involved confidential discussions.
Several Republican senators previously had called for Bundgaard to step down as majority leader.
The two senators Wednesday said Bundgaard said he’d be cleared on the basis of more information that will come out regarding the alleged domestic violence incident, including information on Aubry Ballard handling a gun during the ordeal.
One of the two senators said Bundgaard said it was his gun. The other senator didn’t recall whether Bundgaard specified that.
The two Republican senators said the caucus ended without a vote on whether Bundgaard should remain majority leader but with an agreement to wait another week for more information.
Bundgaard’s assurance that exonerating evidence was forthcoming was decisive in the Republican caucus’ decision to let Bundgaard keep his leadership post for at least another week, the two senators said.
Bundgaard’s comments about a gun being involved were previously reported by The Arizona Guardian.
A spokesman for Ballard said Bundgaard keeps a gun in his car but that it was untrue that Ballard handled a gun during the incident.
“Aubry did no such thing,” said the spokesman, David Leibowitz. He added that Bundgaard’s story “just continues to change. It just continues to defy belief.”
A police report on the incident did not mention a gun being found or discussed, and a police spokesman said Wednesday he did not know whether police found a gun in the vehicle. Detectives are investigating the incident and are expected to write at least one additional report in about a week, said the spokesman, Sgt. Tommy Thompson.
Bundgaard declined to speak with reporters before an afternoon floor session but said he would do so afterward. However, he left during the floor session, missing all 25 recorded votes, and his office said he had left the Senate.
“It’s pretty clear there’s a serious distraction,” Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, said. “You never like to see a senator miss a whole lot of votes, especially a leader of a party.”
Republican Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, said Bundgaard’s unexplained departure was disappointing. “Obviously it’s a distraction,” she said of his situation.
Gray said GOP senators plan to reconsider Bundgaard’s situation during a caucus next Tuesday.
“We gave him a week and that will be up,” she said.
The incident between Bundgaard and Ballard occurred Feb. 25 on state Route 51 in north Phoenix as the couple drove home from a charity event.
A police report said an off-duty officer reported seeing a man pushing or pulling a woman to the ground next to a car and that the man had his hands on the woman.
The report said both Bundgaard and Ballard told officers that they had argued while driving in his car, but that the couple differed on who did what to the other. Both had bruises and cuts, the report said.
Ballard was arrested on investigation of assault and jailed overnight. She was released the next day, and the charge was subsequently dropped.
Police said Bundgaard was handcuffed at the scene but released after he invoked a state constitutional immunity that generally protects legislators from arrest during legislative sessions. He has denied invoking the immunity.