In response to my petition to the AZ Speaker of the House and House Ethics Committee to bring disciplinary action against Rep. Ugenti, I received a short, late evening response from the Ethics Committee Chair, Rep. Lovas. The terse response amounted to “the act of offering an amendment on the floor does not rise to the level of disorderly behavior for purposes of Ethics Committee jurisdiction. . . . The Ethics Committee will not be taking the matter up further.” This was a strict interpretation of the meaning of ethics, which under the House Rules deals only with financial issues. It says that a violation of the Arizona Constitution by an elected official is not an ethical concern.
Where ethical restraint is lacking, there can be no hope of overcoming problems. (The Dalai Lama).
Very much disappointed in Rep. Lovas’ response, I replied in a little more detail.
I appreciate your late evening response to my emails seeking disciplinary action against Rep. Ugenti for her conduct in submitting her waning hours amendment to SB 1454. The strict interpretation of the committee’s jurisdiction holding that Ugenti’s conduct was not “disorderly behavior for purposes of Ethics Committee jurisdiction” is disturbing. How can a violation of the law by an elected representative, a legislator, not be viewed as unethical? The bill with Ugenti’s amendment was stipulated by the Legislature (per paragraph 22 of the Stipulation) to have violated the Arizona Constitution’s prohibition against bills with more than one subject. And the court so invalidated her additions.
I am disappointed in your response. You treat this incident as “just another day at the office” and this is the way the Legislature works. That if a legislator can violate Section 13 of the Arizona Constitution, so be it. And if caught in doing so and a court invalidates the effects of the legislator’s actions, the attitude of the Ethics Committee seems to be, Oh well. The legislation is invalid. Let’s move on to next year. It smells of, if you can get away with it, good. If not, don’t worry since we will take no action.
(I am well aware of Randall Gnant’s comments in his guide for the public, From Idea . . . To Bill . . . To Law, p. 51-52, on the not infrequent disregard of constitutionality of legislation by the Legislature).
I do not understand how Ugenti’s actions do not constitute grossly unethical conduct. It sends the message that, yes, this is the way it is. That the Legislature, as sovereign of the State of Arizona, can do no wrong. Sorry, I cannot accept that “this is the way it is.” The people have a “social contract” with the State of Arizona government that binds both parties, which, by your decision, shows that the Committee has chosen to ignore its duties and responsibilities under that contract, the Arizona Constitution.
I understand that much of what I had described in my case for disciplinary action is considered as that’s the way legislation is accomplished, that’s the way the legislature works. Nothing wrong. However, in your response you categorize and restrict Ugenti’s action as a simple filing of an amendment. You mention nothing about the bill was her third and last ditch attempt to get it passed into law. Or that it was in violation of the Constitution and House Rule 16(D), which prohibits any such bill. House Rule 1 says that a violation of these rules can result in disciplinary action and even the expulsion of a legislator. You trivialized the entire incident.
Let us understand the gravity of Ugenti’s knowing and planned violation of the constitution. In the late 1930s President Roosevelt attempted to get legislation passed to pack the US Supreme Court in order to accomplish goals that he believed were for the good of the people — not the party, not the special interests. He was opposed by the US Senate that believed that the President was tampering with the balance of the separation of powers, which was not good for the country. In this incident, no laws were broken and no rules were violated in spite of the overwhelming controversy and seriousness of the legislation.
More recently, the US Supreme Court in its Kelo decision found justification for interpreting “public purpose” the same as having the eminent domain meaning as “public use.” No laws and no procedures or rules were broken. All was legit and was viewed as in the best interest of the country. But, sadly, not with SB 1454. Not only was a Rule broken, but the Arizona Constitution as well. And the evidence I put forth shows the heavy hand of special interests, the HOA “stakeholder” cabal. (There is more that I have not yet released). Yet, no evil is seen by the Ethics Committee and that no investigation into the affair is warranted. What message does this send to the people of Arizona? What does it say about the State of Arizona?
I cannot stress the need for action by the Ethics Committee to restore the faith and confidence in the Arizona Legislature. I ask that the committee take whatever action is appropriate and necessary for the House to commence disciplinary charges per House Rule 1. Ugenti must not be given a clean bill of health, a pass, a walk to try again another time. Disciplinary action will also serve as a deterrent to other so inclined legislators.
Please urge the Speaker to undertake disciplinary action on behalf the people, for the good of Arizona.
George K. Staropoli