Report on Rogers’ alleged ethics violations draws no conclusions

Julia Shumway//March 1, 2021

Report on Rogers’ alleged ethics violations draws no conclusions

Julia Shumway//March 1, 2021


A Senate panel could decide as early as tomorrow whether a vocal freshman senator violated ethics rules by mistreating her former assistant.

Tuesday morning’s meeting of the Senate Ethics Committee will follow the release of an investigative report into Sen. Wendy Rogers, whose former assistant charged that she pressured him to do campaign work on state time, verbally abused him, physically assaulted him and pushed for his termination.

The Senate’s rules attorney, who completed the report, did not conclude whether any of Rogers’ behavior violated Senate rules. Most of the nine-page report details the various allegations Michael Polloni made against Rogers, her responses and any supporting evidence.

The ethics panel now must decide whether Rogers’ behavior was unethical, defined in part as “any improper conduct that adversely reflects upon the Senate.” They could then recommend disciplinary action, up to and including expulsion.

The attorney interviewed Rogers, Polloni, another legislative assistant who shares the office suite and three Senate pages who witnessed part of an altercation between Rogers and Polloni. Rogers and Polloni both shared screenshots of text messages and call logs.

The report confirms some of Polloni’s allegations, including that Rogers yelled at him in her office, told him “tough s—, you work for me” when he said he worked for the state and forcefully shut a door preventing the other assistant from entering Rogers’ office when Polloni asked the assistant for help.

Wendy Rogers
Wendy Rogers

Screenshots of text messages also show Rogers asking Polloni to share a spreadsheet of bills she wanted to introduce or “that may help us in the long run” with her nephew, Spence, a Florida-based strategist who received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Rogers campaign. Polloni provided the attorney with an online folder titled “campaign projects,” but it only included ideas for legislation Rogers was considering. 

The text messages Polloni provided did not support his claim that Rogers pestered him to work every day while he was out with Covid. On Jan. 4, the first day he was told to stay home, Rogers texted him to ask multiple times if he could work from home, followed by a message telling him they needed to talk the first chance she got. 

On Jan 5, she texted him to ask for his parking spot number and a phone number for the Senate’s handyman. On Jan. 6, she asked him to coordinate information with the Senate page filling in for him and draft a generic email response. 

On Jan. 7 and 8, they exchanged messages about photos and office decor. On Jan. 9, she texted him to ask if he was in her legislative email account, and Polloni didn’t respond until Jan. 10, prompting Rogers to tell him he needed to be more prompt in responding to her messages in the future.

They next texted on Jan. 13, the day before Polloni returned to work. The two had three phone calls during the 10-day period Polloni was home sick.

Everything blew up on Jan. 14, the day Polloni returned to work and only three days into the legislative session. 

Rogers and Polloni both described clashing over decor in his office, which served as a waiting room to her office. A letter from Rogers’ attorney, Jeffrey Walsh of Greenberg Traurig, focuses almost entirely on office decor.

Walsh wrote that Rogers chose to have both her office and the common area decorated to highlight northern Arizona, so she sought to allow only photographs of northern Arizona, a TV showing photos on a loop and items from Northern Arizona University. Polloni asked to hang his own photos, including some of him in Russia and Italy, on a wall by his desk, as other assistants decorate their office space, but Rogers insisted it was a common area and she would pick the decorations. 

Polloni returned to work on Jan. 14 to find several of his personal items, including an Eagle Scout award and a statuette of St. Michael, had been shoved in drawers. When three pages arrived to help hang up pictures, both Rogers and Polloni described Rogers telling them not to hang up some of Polloni’s photos and then asking Polloni to talk privately in Rogers office. 

The three pages left the room, and Rogers declined Polloni’s request that the other assistant be allowed in as a witness. In her interview, Rogers said she thought Polloni would become argumentative and challenge her authority.

Both agreed on the broad strokes of the conversation: they discussed Polloni’s St. Michael statuette, Polloni cried and Rogers told him to think of the office as a military barracks. Polloni recalled Rogers yelling “We are at war here, Mikey,” and Rogers acknowledged saying that they were in a combat situation. 

Polloni said he didn’t like how Rogers spoke down to him. Rogers, in her interview, said she responded “I will talk down to you. You work for me.”

Both Polloni and the other assistant described Rogers slamming the door in the other assistant’s face, almost crushing Polloni’s hand, when Polloni attempted to open it and call for help. Rogers denied this. 

After Rogers told Polloni that he worked for her and he responded that he worked for the state of Arizona, Rogers said she realized no more discussion would be appropriate as he was clearly insubordinate and did not know his role. 

Rogers then contacted senior Senate staff. Within hours, Polloni was asked to choose between being fired and resigning. He opted to resign so he could someday work for the state of Arizona again.

Neither Rogers nor Polloni could corroborate their accounts of other issues raised in the complaint, because they happened in one-on-one conversations with no witnesses.

Polloni described Rogers making derogatory comments about his lesbian sister, saying she could never do anything like loving another woman. He also recalled her saying it wasn’t right that his conservative uncle and liberal aunt were married because of their different political opinions.

Rogers, in her interview, said she had no idea Polloni’s sister was a lesbian until she read the complaint. She said Polloni frequently talked about his aunt and uncle, and her only response was that she would sometimes meet couples from different parties when she campaigned door to door and everyone would chuckle about it.

Along with the ethics complaint, Polloni has filed a federal workplace harassment complaint that could lead to a lawsuit against the Senate. He has also retained attorneys for a potential civil suit against Rogers.