SACRAMENTO -- The state Senate's Committee on Legislative Ethics is scheduled Thursday to meet for the first time in two decades, as the panel prepares to look into allegations of misconduct by a sitting lawmaker— Democratic Sen. Ronald S. Calderon of Montebello.
The six-member panel is scheduled to convene in closed session for what is billed as an "organizational meeting" that includes a briefing on the hiring of a special counsel to review Calderon's case and determine whether he broke any rules of the Legislature.
No criminal charges have been filed in the case, but an FBI affidavit leaked to a cable news station indicates federal officials are investigating allegations that Calderon accepted $88,000 in bribes to affect bills extending tax credits for the film industry and workers' compensation benefits.
The committee plans to consider whether information in the affidavit should be investigated for possible violations of the Senate standards of conduct, according to Chuck Dalldorf, a spokesman for Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside), the committee chairman.
Mark Geragos, an attorney for Calderon, suggested the Senate committee focus elsewhere.
"We welcome an investigation into by the ethics committee into the illegal leaking of grand jury material and search warrant affidavits," Geragos said. "It's a real problem and hopefully they will focus on that."
Officials say the panel's last meeting on record was in 1993 when it adopted the standards of conduct. A year later, the ethics committee chairman at the time called for the expulsion of Republican state Sen. Frank Hill of Whittier, who ended up resigning after he was convicted by a criminal jury in the Shrimpscam corruption case.
The committee was created to formulate and enforce standards of conduct for senators and their employees and can investigate complaints it receives or, by a two-thirds vote, initiate an investigation by filing its own complaint.
If two-thirds of the committee finds a member committed a minor violation it can recommend that the Senate Rules Committee deny or limit a right or privelege of a senator. If the violation is found to be serious, the recommendation goes to the full Senate which, by a majority vote, can reprimand or censure a member or, by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, expel a member "for a most serious violation," according to the Senate rules.