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Ethics Committee Chairman Shope's Impartiality Questioned

27 March 2019  
“I don’t think he [Stringer] deserves to be there,” said TJ Shope.

The Ethics Committee in the Arizona House is investigating Representative David Stringer (LD1) on three complaints. Two are regarding comments he made during the summer and later in the fall that some people have interpreted as being racist. 

A third is regarding an arrest that occurred over 35 years ago in Maryland.  Stringer was never convicted or found guilty of any of the charges, although he did accept a ‘probation without judgment’ plea (which means he never admitted guilt and he was never found to be legally guilty) and the record was later expunged by the courts. Somehow, the Phoenix New Times (illegally??) obtained information about that arrest, which dredged up old history. When the Phoenix New Times published the story, the Arizona Bar considered another complaint on its own, as to whether Stringer appropriately disclosed the information of the arrest on his Bar application. 

But, the arrest record was expunged more than 30 years ago. And not just expunged, apparently the documents have largely been destroyed, so there is very, very little documentation regarding the incident. The Washington, DC Bar Association, where Stringer practiced law at the time, did investigate the matter, and found that Stringer had no moral turpitude, and he was able to continue to practice law. 

Bar Association investigations are typically kept confidential unless a member is found to be guilty and punished in some way. So, when the Arizona Bar Association requested information from the Washington, DC Bar about their investigation thirty-plus years ago, they provided it under the condition that it be kept confidential. An Arizona Supreme Court Justice agreed, and sealed the letter, ensuring that it would not be seen by other parties. After reviewing the letter from the Washington DC Bar Association, the Arizona State Bar Association dismissed the charge against Stringer and closed the investigation. 

Bar Counsel Matthew McGregor explained, “After our review of the charge and subsequent inquiry, we have determined that no further investigation is warranted at this time. We therefore consider this file closed."

Enter the Ethics Committee, which is chaired by Representative T.J. Shope. Shope wants to see the letter. He doesn’t really care that it’s been sealed, he wants to read it anyway. So, he has issued a subpoena for the letter, and also for Stringer to sit for an interview. The subpoena for the letter expires today, and if a solution is not found, Stringer could be held in contempt.

However, now a question has risen about Shope’s impartiality. In a December 7, 2018, article published on the Arizona Capitol Times website, 2nd straight year of calls for a lawmaker’s ouster, Shope is quoted as saying, “I don’t think he deserves to be there. But by God, the people in his district knew what he said a few months ago, and they sent him back.” 

Shope also said he personally has no love for the lawmaker, referring to Stringer, reports writer Katie Campbell.

So, can Representative TJ Shope fairly and impartially lead an ethics investigation against Representative Stringer? That’s the question Stringer is asking.

On his Facebook page, Stringer wrote, "I can live with him not liking me, but he never disclosed to any of us that he had already reached a decision in his mind before even beginning the House Ethics process. I don't believe the House Speaker or House Leadership knew that Shope had already decided I should be removed from office, and as an attorney who is used to dealing with due process and strict ethical rules, I'm stunned that he accepted leadership in my case under these circumstances.”

Read the entire Facebook post here:

According to AZCentral, Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers has stated in reply, “…I have the utmost confidence in Rep. Shope’s ability to fairly investigate the complaints against Rep. Stringer."

Today’s the deadline Stringer has to fulfill the documents subpoena. 

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Lynne LaMaster

Lynne LaMaster is the Founder and Editor of the eNewsAZ Network of websites. She asks a lot of questions! In her spare time, she loves photography, cooking and hanging out with her family.