Ethics Committee dismisses complaint over AZ Republican's signature controversy

The Wittmann Republican is no longer running for reelection as some of his signatures may have been forged.

Published: May 17, 2024 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

(The Center Square)- The Arizona House will not be looking into an ethics complaint from Democrats regarding alleged forgery of Rep. Austin Smith's nominating petition signatures.

The Wittmann Republican is no longer running for reelection as some of his signatures may have been forged. The case was automatically referred to the Attorney General's office for a possible criminal investigation by the Secretary of State's office in April.

"It seemed ludicrous because Republicans trying to get on the ballot don't seek Democrat signatures and would have no reason to forge Democrat signatures since they don't count," he said in a statement at the time, The Center Square reported.

As a result, four Democratic lawmakers asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate if he violated House rules. The complaint says Smith's alleged actions could be "tarnishing to the public's perception" of the Arizona House. They said he could be in violation of House Rule 1 for "disorderly behavior."

However, Rep. Joseph Chaplik, who chairs the committee, said in a letter to the lawmakers on Friday that he "does not intend to take further action" on the complaint. Chaplik and Smith are both Republican members of the Arizona Freedom Caucus.

"The Committee is not a law enforcement or prosecutorial arm of government, nor does it act in any way to interfere with such entities," his letter states.

House Minority Leader Lupe Contreras was not pleased with length of time it took for Chaplik to respond to the complaint, which was filed on May 3.

"This was a very simple complaint that speaks for itself. Representative Smith is facing serious criminal allegations based on his alleged forgeries, which impact his ability to serve as a member of the House," Contreras said in a statement. "We gave Republicans ample time to hold their member accountable, but it became clear today that they have no intention of doing that. I thank our members for stepping up for accountability."

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