State senator asks impeachment move vs. Horne

Democrat Gallardo cites misdemeanor traffic conviction
2013-05-11T00:00:00Z State senator asks impeachment move vs. HorneHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star

PHOENIX - Citing Tom Horne's misdemeanor conviction on a traffic accident, state Sen. Steve Gallardo wants the House to look at impeaching the attorney general.

Gallardo, a Phoenix Democrat, pointed out late Friday that the Arizona Constitution allows public officials to be impeached - and if convicted, removed from office - for "high crimes, misdemeanors or malfeasance in office." And the charge to which Horne pleaded no contest earlier this week is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Horne scoffed at Gallardo's call as not only political, but meaningless.

"When a member of the minority party calls for impeachment of a political opponent, it's not significant because it's not going anywhere," he said.

House Speaker Andy Tobin said no one in his chamber of either party has approached him. The Arizona Constitution requires impeachment proceedings to start in the House; Gallardo is a senator.

Tobin said the impeachment call is "Gallardo grandstanding for publicity at this point."

But if a House member makes a request, Tobin said, "I will take a look."

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said he has not spoken with Gallardo. But he said he will review the issue with members of his caucus and, if appropriate, follow up with Tobin.

If charges are brought, it would be only the second time the Legislature has impeached a statewide official. The only other was the 1988 decision by the House to bring charges against Gov. Evan Mecham; the Senate, which acts as the jury in these cases, found him guilty, resulting in automatic removal from office.

Horne acknowledged the "misdemeanor" provision in the constitution. But he said it's wrong to equate what he did with that.

"Some misdemeanors are serious," he said. "This is a $300 fine."

He said that would be like starting impeachment charges against Gallardo for traffic violations.

But Gallardo said this isn't just some speeding citation.

"We're talking about hit and run," he said. "We're talking about the top law enforcement officer of this state who was involved in an accident and took off."

Horne has said he did not know he damaged the other vehicle. Police said the repair costs to the scraped paint were $1,000.

Gallardo stressed he is not saying that Horne definitely committed an offense meriting impeachment. But he said the House has a responsibility to take a closer look and at least conduct an investigation.

If the House proceeds, though, any inquiry into Horne is likely to deal with more than the year-old incident.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett, a Republican like Horne, already has concluded there is evidence that Horne violated campaign-finance laws, following an FBI investigation which concluded Horne had coordinated his 2010 election bid with what was supposed to be an independent campaign committee run by a political ally.

That civil charge was sidelined when a judge ruled earlier this month that it was improper for Bennett to refer the case to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. Bennett is now going to send the complaint against Horne to Horne - what the judge said is required - with the presumption the case will be referred to a county attorney because of the conflict of interest.

Campbell said the campaign irregularities are more significant than the accident and the misdemeanor record.

"He's basically gotten a free pass on technicalities," Campbell said.

Campbell said he is not holding Horne to any different standard than members of his own party, pointing out Democrats were the first to pursue ethics charges last year against Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson, following allegations of domestic violence.

The House Ethics Committee took a deeper look at Patterson, eventually voting that he should be removed for "disorderly behavior," but Patterson quit before the case went any further.

While Horne does now have a misdemeanor record, a conviction is not necessary for the Legislature to pursue impeachment.

Mecham was ousted by the Senate after an indictment on charges of fraud and perjury, but he was acquitted when the case went to court.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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