PHOENIX - The head of the House Ethics Committee said Thursday that he may not give embattled Rep. Daniel Patterson a formal hearing before a vote on whether to recommend he be expelled.
Rep. Ted Vogt, R-Tucson, said he is waiting to get the Tucson legislator's formal response to an investigative report that detailed allegations of improper conduct and recommended he be ousted from the House. That response is due Tuesday morning.
"We'll evaluate it and decide what has to happen next," he said.
Patterson said he presumes that "next" involves a hearing where he gets to present evidence of his own. He said it is his right to confront and cross-examine those who accused him of bullying and harassment in their statements to investigators.
Vogt, however, said that's not true.
"The report is in writing," he said. "Mr. Patterson can put his answers or his responses in writing."
Vogt said it is not necessary that Patterson be given a chance to make a presentation to the committee beyond what is in his response.
In an email to Patterson, Vogt wrote the recommendation of the Ethics Committee to the full House will be based entirely on the investigative report and Patterson's response.
"I do not believe the committee will be entertaining any formal presentations, witness testimony or any matters other than the written papers submitted," Vogt wrote.
"I'm very, very troubled by that," Patterson said.
"I deserve an opportunity to talk to the committee. I deserve an opportunity under Committee Rule 15 to question the allegations in this report and whoever's made them," he said.
But Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, a member of the Ethics Committee, said a lot of what happens next may depend on what Patterson files.
"His response could be nothing more than one line which says, 'I deny the allegations,' " he said. And if that's the case, Farnsworth said, it may be the committee has all the information it needs and can proceed with a vote on what to do next.
By contrast, Farnsworth said, it might be different if Patterson provides a charge-by-charge response, detailing his own recollection of each incident cited by the lawyers that the committee hired to investigate Patterson's conduct.
Farnsworth, who is an attorney like Vogt, said this is not the same as a court trial.
He said the Arizona Constitution gives the House and Senate each the power to set its own rules for member conduct and member removal. And each member of the House gets to make his or her own judgment about what are the true facts, whether punishment is appropriate and, if so, what that should be.
The only requirement is it takes two-thirds of the 60-member House to eject a member.
Patterson has been absent from the Capitol for the past few days, saying he is working on constituent issues in Tucson. But House Speaker Andy Tobin said he told Patterson to stay away while the investigation is playing out, saying his presence would only be a "diversion."
Late Thursday, Patterson sent an email to House members seeking forgiveness.
"I sincerely regret that I've offended anyone at the House," he wrote. "This has never been intentional."
Patterson also said he is not a threat to any lawmaker, "and I have no harmful intent toward anyone at the House." But questions about Patterson's temper, including what the investigators found when interviewing other lawmakers, staff members and lobbyists, led Tobin to take away his access to most House offices.
Patterson also gave a preview of what is likely to be in his response.
"Although I've made some mistakes, nothing I've done warrants my resignation or removal from the House," he said. "The decision of voters who elected me should be respected."
Patterson said the fact that he does not intend to seek re-election to the House should also be a factor in allowing him to serve out the remainder of the term.