A Democratic Representative is asking for an ethics complaint filed against her for hiding Capitol Bibles to be dismissed.
Rep. Stephanie Stahl-Hamilton, D-Tucson, submitted a response signed by two attorneys to the complaint on Monday. The response was filed as a letter with House Ethics Committee Chairman Rep. Joseph Chaplik, R-Scottsdale, and the attorneys argued the complaint should be dismissed because it failed to comply with notarization requirements of Ethics Committee rules procedures.
Stahl-Hamilton’s attorneys are two former Democrat state lawmakers, Domingo DeGrazia and Diego Rodriguez. They also wrote in the letter that Stahl-Hamilton’s actions were a “peaceful protest regarding the separation of church and state, and in response to the weaponizing of religion in politics.”
Reps. Lupe Diaz, R-Benson, David Marshall, R-Snowflake, and Justin Heap, R-Mesa, filed the complaint against Stahl-Hamilton on May 1 and allege she engaged in disorderly behavior, committed theft and created a hostile work environment.
House security caught Stahl-Hamiliton taking Bibles from the members’ lounge with a hidden video camera that was placed in the lounge due to reports of Bibles missing. After the video was broadcast by news outlets, the representative admitted to hiding the Bibles and apologized for her actions on the House floor and said it was “impulsive.”
“Representative Stahl Hamiltion’s actions are not only disorderly; they display a profound lack of judgment and a flagrant disrespect for the beliefs of her fellow members and the Arizona population at large, making her conduct unethical and unacceptable.”
Her formal response references her apology and reiterates her statement that she didn’t intend to disrespect or desecrate the Bibles.
“Rep. Stahl Hamilton is an ordained Presbyterian minister who has deep respect for the Bible and for the sacred texts of other faiths,” the letter states.
Furthermore, her attorneys argue that hiding the Bibles doesn’t constitute theft as defined by Arizona law, as she has a legal right to use items in the members’ lounge. Stahl-Hamilton admitted to hiding the Bibles under couch cushions in the lounge and a community refrigerator, but she never removed them from the building.
The Republicans argue the Bibles are the government’s property and Stahl-Hamilton obtained control over them to deprive other members from using them. They also said in their complaint that she created a hostile work environment by committing religious harassment in the workplace.
Since Stahl-Hamilton isn’t in a leadership position, her attorneys also argue it is “legally impossible” for her to create a hostile work environment as she is neither an employer nor supervisor of legislators.
“Thus, only House leadership and committee chairpersons can create a hostile work environment,” the attorneys wrote.
Disorderly behavior was the same offense that the Ethics Committee determined expelled Rep. Liz Harris committed earlier in the session, and 46 House members voted to expel her on April 13 after the committee also determined that Harris lied during her Ethics hearing.
The next steps on whether to proceed with an Ethics hearing against Stahl-Hamilton will be up to Chaplik. The House Ethics Committee, which is made up of three Republicans and two Democrats, can dismiss the complaint or determine Stahl-Hamilton violated House rules.
If they decide the latter, they could recommend disciplinary action; although they didn’t recommend any specific disciplinary action against Harris for inviting conspiracy theories that alleged lawmakers were engaging in criminal activity during a February joint elections hearing.
Harris’ expulsion vote required two-thirds of the House. Lawmakers have also previously done censure votes against members at the subject of ethics complaints, which require a simple majority.