Investigation commissioned for Arizona senator’s comments on Buffalo shooting

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Senate Ethics Committee voted Wednesday to formally investigate online comments by a Republican lawmaker that appeared to blame the federal government for the recent massacre at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. .

The panel was tasked by the full Senate last week to review an online message Senator Wendy Rogers posted the night a young white man entered the market in a predominantly black neighborhood and killed 10 people. . Authorities say the shooter posted a racist screed before the May 14 attack.

Rogers, now in his first term, has built a national profile among the far right with inflammatory rhetoric and vocal support for former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Democrats wanted to oust Rogers, who was just censured by the Senate on March 1. The action came after she spoke at a white nationalist rally and said her political opponents would face a “newly constructed set of gallows”.

As news of the mass shooting in Buffalo was just breaking out, Rogers tweeted, “Fed boys’ summer has begun in Buffalo.”

Many in both parties interpreted that tweet to mean that Rogers blamed the feds for the attack, especially in light of Rogers’ history of conspiracy theories.

Rogers did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday. She made no comment when the Senate debated the ethics referral as she sat at her desk in the Senate last week.

The ethics committee ordered its lawyers to review the online posts and their context. Rogers, who represents Flagstaff and a large swath of northern Arizona, will also be interviewed. She will have one week after the end of the report to provide a response.

The panel did not set a deadline for completing the investigation, but Senate attorney Chris Kleminich told reporters he expects the process to take “weeks, not months.” “. He said he expected Rogers to cooperate with his review.

The Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, could decide on disciplinary action ranging from a formal censure to expulsion once the report is completed. He could also drop the case without action.

The ethics committee also acted on two other issues during Wednesday’s brief meeting.

He ordered Kleminich to suggest possible changes to state laws on when a public office should be declared vacant. The panel acted at the request of Republican Sen. TJ Shope, who complained that Democratic Sen. Juan Mendez was absent for most of this year’s session.

Mendez’s wife, Democratic Representative Athena Salman, gave birth to the couple’s first child in January. The couple did not attend debates or floor votes this year to avoid being exposed to the coronavirus and infecting their baby girl. Both asked to be able to participate and vote remotely, as members were allowed to do last year, but were refused.

They could vote from their Capitol offices, but they rarely did.

The Senate also dismissed an ethics complaint accusing Democratic Senator Lisa Otondo of helping Democratic Representative Robert Meza cover up an alleged fraud and public corruption scheme.

The House Ethics Committee voted May 5 not to pursue the complaint against Meza filed by Scottsdale resident Phillip Potter.

Potter was embroiled in a bitter divorce from his wife and filed what the courts called frivolous lawsuits against his parents, associates and companies his business had done business with. Meza was named in a lawsuit and her attorney said the ethics complaint was also aimed at going after her associates.

A Phoenix judge last week denied Potter’s request to reconsider, dismissing a lawsuit. The judge also ordered Potter to pay nearly $70,000 in legal fees for attorneys who represented the people and companies Potter was suing.

“The Court agrees that Plaintiff’s inexplicable expansion of a dispute in family court caused the dismissed parties to incur significant attorneys’ fees and expenses in defending an entirely frivolous action,” the judge wrote. of Maricopa County Superior Court, Jay Ryan Adelman.

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