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State Senator Tries to Spike Ethics Hearing

PHOENIX (CN) - A state senator under investigation for a domestic violence incident wants the Arizona Senate Ethics Committee to call off its ethics hearing, claiming it violated its rules by failing to timely proceed with the hearing.

State Senator Scott Bundgaard was ousted from his position as Senate Majority Leader after he was charged with two misdemeanor domestic-violence charges, for allegedly striking his girlfriend and dragging her from a car on Feb. 25.

The charges were dismissed.

State Sen. Steve Gallardo filed an ethics complaint against Bundgaard on Aug. 26, "requesting the committee to formally conduct an impartial ethics investigation" of the February incident, Bundgaard says in his complaint in Maricopa County Court.

Bundgaard is a Republican, Gallardo a Democrat.

The state Senate Ethics Committee Rules of Procedure "require that within five calendar days of its receipt of an answer to a complaint or, if no answer is filed, the expiration of seven days after notice of a complaint is mailed or hand-delivered to the senator against whom the complaint is made, whichever is sooner, the committee must decide to dismiss the complaint or proceed with an investigation," Bundgaard says.

The rules state that a hearing on the ethics complaint "must commence not less than five days or more than 20 days after notice to the respondent of the committee's proceeding with an investigation," the complaint states.

Bundgaard says the Senate Ethics Committee's attorney, Stacy Weltsch, "claims she notified Senator Bundgaard of the committee's decision to proceed with an investigation of the Gallardo complaint" on Sept. 15.

But Bundgaard says the committee did not commence hearing the complaint by Oct. 13.

On Nov. 15, Bundgaard's attorney wrote to Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Gould, "to advise him of the committee's failure to comply with the requirements of its own rules of procedure, namely Rule 8," according to the complaint.

Weltsch responded on Nov. 30, claiming that the "committee complied with Rule 8 by holding a committee meeting" on Sept. 20, the complaint states.

Bundgaard seeks declaratory judgment that the committee's Sept. 20 meeting "was not a hearing of the Gallardo complaint as required by Senate Ethics Committee Rules of Procedure." He also seeks a preliminary injunction to stop the committee from proceeding with hearings on the ethics complaint.

Bundgaard is represented by André Merrett and Shawn Aiken with Aiken, Schenk, Hawkins and Ricciardi.

Follow @jamierossCNS
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