Back in the early 1990s being convicted of felonies by a sitting state official would find the offended political party on a concerted mission to force the shamed state senator to resign if the offender was reluctant to leave office. There was little tolerance of criminal activity.
Unfortunately maintaining political control appears to be the main focus of democrats in the state senate instead of the interests of the people. Although Senator Roderick Wright of Los Angeles was convicted of eight felonies, democrats that control the 40-member chamber used political postering to send the matter to the State Rules Committee where it could die without a hearing.
Republicans Joel Anderson of Alpine, Steve Knight of Palmdale, and Andy Vidak of Hanford declared Wright deserved expulsion and not merely a leave of absence that would Wright to keep receiving over $95 thousand dollars of his annual salary.
Two previous cases where a democrat and republican were referenced, Senator Joseph B. Montoya (D) in 1990, and Senator C. Frank Hill (R) in 1994 were forced to resign by their respective parties after being convicted of felonies. The ethics bar has been lowered in the 20-years since other legislators were forced to resign for committing felonies in office.
Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg made a dubious effort to justify the move to halt expulsion and dismissed the attempt to disqualify Wright as “political theater, pure and simple”. Steinberg offered this explanation for what was done,
“California is suffering from one of the most severe droughts in this state’s history, and yet we are spending the people’s time today on a resolution that would make zero practical difference. Senator Wright has already left the building.”
Are we talking about a water drought or a morality drought? Yes, Wright has left the building all right after he took an indefinite leave of absence as he awaits sentencing May 16th. It was hardly a ceremonious departure.
One would think that perjury and voter fraud convictions should be important issues regarding integrity, however the cavalier response from Steinberg indicates it is too much trouble to censor a politician that is involved in corruption. Criminal activity of this type does not fare too well on a public official’s resume.
It is a sad day for California when illegal activity is not enough to have a senator relived from duty from what is suppose to be people entrusted to uphold the public interest. Conviction is quite different from accusation and it is both a shame and embarrassment that political expediency once again trumps doing the right thing. The people of California deserve better than what is being demonstrated.
There’s a drought in California, but it doesn’t mean just water.