Senate Republicans seem determined to create a bipartisan committee on ethics to discipline or investigate senators on an as needed basis.
Their proposal was defeated mostly along party lines last week, but they said Monday that they’ve revised it and attached it to a handful of bills, which they hope will be called before midnight Wednesday.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Southport, said if the two senators who were recently fined by an independent state commission were Republicans, then he doesn’t doubt that there would be Democratic support for a similar proposal.
The idea of a bipartisan committee on Senate ethics first came up at the end of 2007 when former Sen. Louis DeLuca admitted to asking a man with mafia-ties to beat up his granddaughter’s husband because he thought she was being abused. A six-member panel, three Senators from each party, was appointed to determine whether to recommend a censure, reprimand, or expulsion. DeLuca ended up resigning before the committee made its final recommendation.
Back on Dec. 11, 2007, after DeLuca had resigned, Democratic leadership in the Senate seemed to be in favor of creating a bipartisan ethics committee, however, now that the ethics of two Democratic senators have been raised the Democratic majority seems hesitant to create such a committee.
McKinney said there’s no doubt in his mind that if Sen. Joseph Crisco, D-Woodbridge, and Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D-Meriden, were Republicans that there would be Democratic support for this issue.
Gaffey was fined $6,000 in March for double-billing the state and his own political action committee for expenses related to his attendance at legislative conferences, and Crisco was fined $4,000 last week for violating state election laws related to his re-election campaign.
Both Gaffey and Crisco were absent for the vote on Thursday.
When asked about the Republican’s position Monday, Gaffey shrugged it off describing the Republican press conference as “the politics of the day.”
He said he wasn’t there for the vote Thursday because he didn’t think he should be there to influence the vote in anyway. “Let them vote the way they want to vote,” he said Monday.
Standing outside the Senate chambers, Gaffey said the Republican’s proposal fails to recognize the process he went through with the state Elections Enforcement Commission. He said his case was exhaustive and lasted 18 months.
“I paid a dear price for this,” Gaffey said.
“As highlighted by the still unanswered questions surrounding the transgressions of sitting Connecticut legislators, it is clear that out state suffers from the absence of a permanent ethics process that would handle complaints of legislative misconduct in a consistent, open, and bipartisan way,” McKinney said.
He said the one man who is standing in the way seems to be Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn. “Senate President is the president of the entire Senate,” not just one party, McKinney said.
Williams was unable to be found for comment Monday, but Derek Slap his communications director said “We had a difference of opinion and we had a good debate about it.” He said the time to debate the proposal is done.
But Republicans were not willing to give up the debate.
Creation of a committee “would protect the integrity of the Senate and restore public trust in the process,” McKinney said Monday.
He said Republicans addressed the Democratic concerns raised during last week’s debate and have revised the proposal to give only senators the power to file a complaint against a fellow senator. Also the committee would be an ad hoc committee created on an as needed basis if a complaint is filed, not the standing committee originally proposed last week.