Two top House Democrats want that chamber’s Ethics Committee to investigate Speaker David Gowan and other key Republicans.
In a formal complaint Tuesday, Minority Leader Eric Meyer and Minority Whip Rebecca Rios cite published reports about the travels of the GOP lawmakers.
“These members used state vehicles for potentially non-official purposes and/or were reimbursed for travel for which they were not entitled to reimbursement,” the Democrats said in the complaint to Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, who chairs the Ethics Committee. They also cited a separate trip that Gowan took to Washington in December.
“These recent events appear to be part of a pattern of inappropriate conduct that has caused the public to lose confidence and trust in the Arizona House of Representatives,” the complaint states.
It also says Gowan appears to have “tasked his state staff with assisting his congressional campaign,” including taking staff to speaking appearances around the state and in Washington.
Gowan already has asked Attorney General Mark Brnovich to look into his own travel. But the Democrats said that request itself raises a separate question, not asked of Brnovich, of whether Gowan sought legal advice from attorneys on the House payroll, rather than seeking outside legal counsel, on the question of a possible criminal investigation.
And they asked that Gowan and Majority Leader Steve Montenegro step aside during the investigation.
“No one will be stepping down,” said Stephanie Grisham, spokeswoman for House Republicans. And Grisham repeatedly refused to answer questions about who prepared Gowan’s letter to Brnovich and whether any state funds, resources or employees were involved.
Grisham also said there would be no comment from any of the legislators named in the complaint. Aside from Gowan and Montenegro, that includes Rep. Darin Mitchell, R-Litchfield Park, and Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale.
But much of the inquiry — and the greatest amount of travel — involves Gowan.
An investigation by the Arizona Capitol Times found a record of extensive travel outside his southeast Arizona legislative district. Grisham has defended that, saying he is the speaker of the entire state.
But the records show the in-state travel was largely in the 1st Congressional District where Gowan is a candidate. He also tweeted out pictures of some campaign meetings on days where he had sought reimbursement for out-of-town travel.
Gowan subsequently reimbursed the state more than $12,000 from his personal funds, calling the billings “errors and nothing more.”
The complaint will not necessarily lead to an investigation or hearing.
Stevens said he is reviewing the complaint. But committee rules allow him to dismiss them if he concludes that none of the conduct alleged violates House rules.
That is what happened after a complaint that Rep. Bob Robson, R-Chandler, had stolen a campaign sign of an opponent. Stevens dismissed it after concluding that whatever occurred was a criminal matter not subject to his committee’s jurisdiction.