Senator Bundgaard Ethics Hearing

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Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times provides an update on the Senate Ethics Committee investigation of an ethics complaint against State Senator Scott Bundgaard.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The state Senate ethics committee held a trial on ethics charges against Senator Scott Bundgaard, stemming from a domestic dispute between the Senator and a former girlfriend. In opening comments the independent counsel called the charges against Scott Bundgaard some of the most severe, and he said he's prepared to recommend expelling Scott Bundgaard from the Senate. Joining me now is Jim small of the Arizona Capitol Times. It's good to have you. There is so many to talk about. This is tough. I know it's interesting to watch, and I think that everyone is riveted, but it's tough to watch, too.

Jim Small: It is, I mean, we're talking about, you know, an incident that is an ugly one, and I think that, that there is really no way around that. I mean, this is an incident where, where it's a man accused of, of getting into a fight, a physical fight with a girlfriend. You know, it's ugly for both of them. Both of them came out of that fight, you know, bruised and bloodied and, and, you know, it's really kind of about what happened at that night, and then also, some of the fallout, I think, especially in terms of Senator Scott Bundgaard's ethical, you know, ethical lapses is what the allegations are.

Ted Simons: And talk about the ethical complaint against Scott Bundgaard and what's being looked at here, and what, you know, the fellow legislators will have to consider.

Jim Small: Basically, the complaint alleges that throughout this entire event, through the fight and the fallout, you know, that came from it and the stories and the explanations for why, why things happened, that, that in the course of doing that, that Senator Scott Bundgaard violated the ethical rules, and essentially, basically, the gist of it is did he make the Senate look bad? And that's more or less kind of the criteria that they have to use, and so we're going through this whole thing, and you have got all these witnesses and, you know, the, the ex-girlfriend testifying, and later, we're going to see, you know, presumably Senator Scott Bundgaard testifying and his defense witnesses. So, it's, it's, you know, it's, basically, like watching a trial, I know you used that word earlier, it's maybe not the most correct word, but it really gets to it. You have a prosecution, a defense, and the led by a U.S. attorney, a deputy U.S. attorney, so it does have that feel to it.

Ted Simons: Reflecting poorly on the Senate and making the Senate look bad is one of the criteria here. This trial makes the Senate look bad. This makes all legislators look bad. This is unseenly stuff.

Jim Small: Well, it is. I think on one hand, but on the other hand, everyone is riveted to the TV or to their computer screen watching the live feed of this, and I think that's because of the political nature, and, you know, you are right, there is the sordid nature to it.

Ted Simons: How many witnesses? You mentioned of Audrey, the then girlfriend, has been up there, and she has some interesting things to say, things that we had not heard before, correct?

Jim Small: Yeah, I think the biggest thing that she said, kind of the new revelation, was that a couple of months earlier at a New Year's eve party, or after a New Year's eve party, at Scott Bundgaard's house, that they got into an argument, and that he choked her and picked her up and shook her, and then threw her out of his house, and she landed on her head on a concrete patio, essentially. And, and that was new, and it's clearly, you know, the prosecution is trying to, to establish kind of a, a pattern here, you know, that this is a guy, who doesn't have good judgment, that has, has exhibited in the past, even with this woman, a tendency towards, you know, physical, physical violence.

Ted Simons: And we also had an off-duty cop and other police officers, and law enforcement officers, and, and with their testimony, but the off-duty cop was riveting, as well.

Jim Small: Yes, he was. He talked about how he was driving on the freeway with, he had his wife and his kids in the car, and saw what was going on, and, you know, called the police and said, there is a man and a woman on the side of the freeway. I see the man agreeing on the woman, and really, being the one, that that is leading the fight, and his wife got up and testified and said, said the exact same thing.

Ted Simons: What defense are we hearing from the Scott Bundgaard side?

Jim Small: We haven't really gotten to the defense. This thing was supposed to be wrapped up in a day, and I don't know that it's going to be. You know, most likely they are going to have to go into a second day. They are still taking testimony from the prosecution witnesses, so the defense will get its turn. They have got a number of people who are at the charity event that, that Scott Bundgaard and his girlfriend attended before the incident, and it seems to me, what they are going to do, is try to say that, you know, look, he was not drinking. That seems to be kind of where they are going with it, but we'll have to wait and see.

Ted Simons: But it sounds as though some of the other, the other aspects of this, we have how many police officers now have said that he did invoke legislative immunity, that they did smell alcohol on the breath, that this is what they saw, and what they saw is different than what he said later. And that stuff all piles up, doesn't it?

Jim Small: Yeah, I think it does, and really, it will be up to the panel of Senators. It's five Senator, three Republicans, and two democrats, who will have to, you know, at the ends of the day, weigh this evidence and decide, ok, who is more believable. Is it Scott Bundgaard, who is saying that he was not drinking and he did not invoke legislative immunity? Or is it the three, four, five officers who said we smelled alcohol on his breath? He refused to take a field sobriety test and a Breathalyzer test, and he invoked legislative immunity repeatedly, we didn't bring it up and he cited a chapter and verse, you know, constitution, and they are going to have to make that decision. I think that certainly from what we have seen today, and with the caveat that we have only seen the prosecution side so far, you know, is certainly -- the evidence seems overwhelming against him.

Ted Simons: The only thing we heard from the defense today was the opening statements, and there was a reference by Scott Bundgaard's attorney that wants his mental state, once Bundgaard's mental state considered, that would be in his defense. What does that mean?

Jim Small: I don't know. And I know ears in the room and other people watching that, they all kind of perked up and said, what to do you mean mental state? We have heard discussions about, you know, about there was a fight that he and the girlfriend were fighting about, you know, she was jealous at the dance partner and things like that. That was the story that he had told the cops, initially, and that he had told some of his fellow Republicans in the Senate after the fact. And so, I don't know if that's going to be, if that's what it is or if they have got something else, you know, we saw it in the new testimony from Mrs. Billiard, so I can only manage we can get testimony from Mr. Scott Bundgaard.
Ted Simons: What's the time frame for the committee members to consider all of this and make their recommendation? What's the time frame for the full Senate to go ahead and do something?

Jim Small: In theory, it was also, you know, supposed to happen today, at least with the committee. They were supposed to hear the testimony and kind of, basically, decide, have their vote on what to do. If testimony stretches into a second day, it's unclear if that's tomorrow, or if they will have to push that off into maybe, maybe next week. It's something that hasn't been broached yet, and I am sure it will be, soon.

Ted Simons: Last question, does anyone think that Scott Bundgaard comes out of this with a political future?

Jim Small: No one that I have talked to thinks that he does. I mean, you look at the testimony, and I think that regardless of what happens, what the ultimate decision is of this committee or the state Senate. You look at some of the testimony, I mean, politically, the things are, are horribly damaging. You have testimony from people saying that he was drinking. You have got the testimony from the ex-girlfriend alone where she says look, he picked me up and threw me down, and I looked up and I was in the freeway, and I thought, I'm going to die on this freeway. I mean, you put that into a TV commercial or on a mailer that you send to voters, and that's ugly stuff. But, it's all on the record, it's all public, and all these depositions are going to be, you know, part of the public record now, and so, you have got fodder, I mean, if you are running against him for an offers in the future, you have got more fodder to work with than you probably could ever get to.

Ted Simons: All right, Jim, good stuff and thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Jim Small: Thank you.

Jim Small:Arizona Capitol Times;

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