Arizona House Democrats tried twice unsuccessfully Tuesday to remove Tucson Rep. Daniel Patterson from office.
Their effort follows a series of events touched off by an alleged domestic violence incident Patterson and his girlfriend were involved in earlier this year, leading to an ethics investigation and a detailed report released earlier this week.
Patterson was a Democrat when a misdemeanor domestic violence charge was filed against him earlier this year. Democrats in the House filed an ethics complaint against him almost immediately. Patterson says he has recently changed his voter registration from Democrat to independent.
Democrats say Patterson has exhibited a pattern of inappropriate conduct while a member of the House. He has maintained his innocence in the domestic violence case and says he will be cleared in the ethics proceedings, too.
The situation came to a head this week when an independent investigation into the ethics complaint was released. The 33-page report says Patterson shows a pattern of intimidating and threatening his fellow lawmakers, legislative staff and lobbyists.
After the report’s release, House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said on the House floor Tuesday that Patterson should be removed from office because of his pattern of behavior.
“And the pattern is very obvious," Campbell said. "This is an ever-increasing pattern of irrational and destructive behavior that is starting to affect this body every single day. And it’s not getting any better, it’s getting worse, despite the best efforts down here to control it. This report shows it’s only getting worse.”
The report revealed a House rule that legislative staffers are not allowed to meet with Patterson one-on-one. The report also said Patterson has cornered other lawmakers and screamed at them.
The independent team of lawyers investigating the ethics complaint against Patterson wrote that many lawmakers and legislative staffers only spoke to investigators anonymously, because they feared verbal or physical retribution.
Patterson said on his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon that he was "suspending my reelection campaign & likely will not run for AZ House in 2012. I want focus on family, break from politics."
Both Monday and Tuesday, he agreed to telephone interviews but declined to be recorded, saying his lawyer advised against it.
He said in Monday's interview that he has never acted in a threatening way or done anything illegal or unethical. He said he has an aggressive style and in some cases wishes he would have handled things differently.
Tucson Rep. Ted Vogt, chairman of the House Ethics Committee, prevented the House from voting to remove Patterson Tuesday, instead asking that the ethics review process be sped up. On that basis, Patterson was given until April 10 to respond to the investigation; the previous deadline was April 16.
“That we ask Rep. Patterson to provide his written comments on the report a week from today, April 10, and then allow the ethics committee to receive that and complete the ethics process for the body," Vogt said on the House floor.
The House voted 36-14 to give Patterson that time to respond to the report.
Patterson was not at the session but rather in Tucson. Contacted by telephone afterward Tuesday, he said the report will be difficult to respond to because many of the statements are anonymous. He said he thinks the report had a predetermined outcome and that he deserves more time to respond.
Vogt said he wants to see Patterson’s response before he decides what the next step should be, but he says a quick resolution is the best option.
Before the House wrapped up its work for Tuesday, House Minority Leader Campbell asked a second time that the chamber vote to remove Patterson from office. Instead, the House voted to adjourn until Wednesday.
Campbell said he has concerns about safety at the Capitol.
“We need to expel him, and if something were to happen down here with somebody’s personal safety before we do, we will be liable for it," Campbell said. "And I want to point out not just liable in a civil litigation sense, liable with our own moral conscious I think.”
Campbell said he has requested extra security at the Capitol, but his request has been rejected by the speaker of the House, so Campbell said the only other option is to remove Patterson from office.
Patterson told Arizona Public Media he was concerned about his own safety after hearing that some lawmakers are carrying guns to their legislative offices. Patterson said he’s met with Capitol Police and Department of Public Safety officers and has never carried a gun to the House.
He said the action on the floor Tuesday diminishes his chance to respond to the ethics investigation report.
He said Campbell and Tucson Rep. Steve Farley are acting desperately and that Farley should be removed from the Ethics Committee for making a motion asking the House to adopt the ethics report before the committee has a chance to meet.
Patterson said it is up to voters to decide whether he should be in office.