Legislative leaders are taking different approaches on how to handle lawmakers who face felony criminal charges.
Prosecutors charged state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, this summer with embezzling from a labor union. He has pleaded not guilty. State Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, was arrested and charged with bribing a state official. He pleaded not guilty on Monday.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, filed a petition Monday evening to open a special investigation committee that could lead to Arroyo’s expulsion from the House.
“A current House member’s arrest on a federal bribery charge is a serious development that demands immediate creation of a Special Investigating Committee,” the petition said. “As requested by the undersigned members of the House, it is imperative for the House of Representatives to be swift and thorough in its appointment of a Special Investigative Committee to investigate the charges against Representative Arroyo and determine discipline, if any.”
State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, was one of the lawmakers who signed the petition.
“I think it’s extremely important that we have a very transparent process,” McCombie said.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said Tuesday that he had filed the paperwork to initiate the official process of removing Arroyo from office.
“At my request, Representatives Fred Crespo, Justin Slaughter and Barbara Hernandez will serve on an investigative committee as required under House rules,” Madigan said in a statement.
House Republican leadership appointed state Reps. Margo McDermed, Grant Wehrli and Dan Ugaste to the Special Investigating Committee.
The committee is scheduled to meet for the first time on Friday with a second meeting set for Nov. 8.
The federal indictment claims Arroyo gave $2,500 to a state Senator in exchange for the unnamed lawmaker’s support of a gambling bill that would have benefited a client of Arroyo’s private lobbying firm. The state senator, who was not named in the indictment, was wearing a wire for federal investigators while expecting to be charged with filing a false tax return in 2016, according to court records. The Chicago Tribune reported state Sen. Terry Link was the cooperating witness. The newspaper cited an unnamed source. Link denied it on Monday. On Tuesday, he declined to answer questions about it directly.
“Why don’t you ask them where they got their source?” Link said. “Why don’t you ask them?”
He said he didn’t want his words to be misconstrued.
“I know how people like to twist my words,” Link said. “I’m not going to twist my words.”
State Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said there are intricacies to each case, including the charges filed against Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park.
“There are issues dealing with whether or not the activity alleged directly relates to the legislature – like taking a bribe to pass a bill, something like that – as opposed to something that’s not related,” John Cullerton said.
Tom Cullerton was removed from his position the chairman of the Senate Labor Committee after he was charged with embezzling from the Teamsters union. He was made the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, a move that allowed him to keep a leadership stipend that comes on top of his base salary.
John Cullerton declined to talk about the specifics of Tom Cullerton’s case, but said he’ll work with House leaders on what kind of changes could be needed to tighten rules on ethics in Springfield.
State Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, said changes were needed, such as barring lawmakers from also being lobbyists.
“You know some of these also lobbyists that are having their spouses are in certain positions or get rewarded for doing certain legislation, that should also be stopped,” Moylan said.
It’s unclear when lawmakers could change rules on ethics, or if such measures could come up during the fall veto session.