Group booted from legislative panel files ethics complaint

Julia Shumway//February 18, 2020

Group booted from legislative panel files ethics complaint

Julia Shumway//February 18, 2020


Protesters escorted out of a Senate hearing last week announced on Tuesday they will be filing  an ethics complaint against the committee chair who ordered their removal.

The complaint from Living United for Change in Arizona alleges that Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, committed a “gross violation” of Senate rules when he stopped the testimony of the group’s lobbyist and ordered chanting protesters out of a Senate Judiciary hearing last week.

The Senate has not yet received a copy of the complaint, Senate Ethics Committee Chair Sine Kerr and a GOP spokesman said.

At issue is a heated hearing Feb. 13 over a piece of legislation that would enshrine part of the controversial 2010 immigration law SB1070 in the Arizona constitution. A LUCHA lobbyist, Hugo Polanco, referred twice to the measure as “racist,” and Farnsworth informed him that he was done speaking after the second time.

Polanco continued trying to speak, and LUCHA directors Alejandra Gomez and Tomas Robles followed him to the microphone to begin their own testimony. Farnsworth said he was done accepting testimony, and asked his vice chairman to move the bill.

LUCHA members then began chanting “let the people speak,” and Farnsworth recessed the committee. When it returned a few minutes later, LUCHA members started chants of “whose house? Our house” and “kill the bill,” causing Farnsworth to recess the committee again.

Department of Public Safety officers escorted several people, including Gomez and Polanco, from the hearing. The measure passed along party lines.

Senate rules state that committee hearings must be open to the press and public — provided proper decorum is maintained. In its complaint, LUCHA alleges that Farnsworth himself broke decorum, by “rudely interrupting and silencing” Polanco.

“There is nothing in Senate Rules that says specific content is disallowed in public testimony, nor should it be. The entire point of public testimony is for the public to share their opinions and insights into proposed legislation. The only logical conclusion for the silencing of Mr. Polanco was simply that Sen. Farnsworth did not like what he was saying. And that is plain wrong,” the complaint continued.

Farnsworth did not respond to a request for comment.