Rep. Patterson maintains innocence, claims there is rush to judgment to expell him
PHOENIX -- Denying he has done anything that merits his expulsion, Rep. Daniel Patterson lashed out Tuesday at what he said is a rush to judgment over questions of his behavior.
In a 19-page response, the Tucson Democrat-turned-independent gave a point-by-point response to the findings of a legal team hired as independent investigator, which concluded he had harassed and intimidated lobbyists, staff and other lawmakers. Patterson said some of the findings are outright wrong; he said others are "not substantiated,' meaning there are insufficient facts to back up the charges.
But Patterson, at a Tuesday afternoon press conference, said there may have been times his conduct has not been ideal.
"Certainly, there have been moments at the House of Representatives that if I had to do some things over again I would do it differently,' he said. Patterson said he has apologized to colleagues who were offended or intimidated but said that was never his intent.
And he said it represents the wishes of his constituents to be "strongly represented' at the Capitol, calling it the "nature of the business' that there will be disputes.
"There certainly have been times where I have a temper and I'm working to deal with that,' Patterson said. "I'm working at toning down my rhetoric.'
Most of what Patterson had to say, though, in both his official response and to reporters, dealt with what has so far been the denial of his request for a full-blown hearing on the charges against him. But Rep. Ted Vogt, R-Tucson, who chairs the Ethics Committee, said he believes that is probably unnecessary.
"We've got the benefit of the independent report,' he said, referring to what was prepared by the lawyers for the committee. "We've also got Mr. Patterson's comments.'
As to the need for actual testimony, Vogt was unconvinced.
"In terms of the clarity (of the charges), what is that going to add for the members?' he asked. "I don't foresee doing a full-blown trial like that.'
But Patterson said Vogt's conclusion is based on an incorrect assumption that the investigative report is fair and unbiased. He specifically lashed out at Michael Manning, the lead attorney, whose firm agreed to handle the task for free.
"Mike Manning could never be considered some kind of an independent voice,' Patterson said, saying he is not any sort of elected official or prosecutor.
"He is a political lawyer,' Patterson said, pointing out that Manning at one point considered a bid for state attorney general. "He may want to run for AG again,' he said, saying Manning never had an interest in putting together a fair report.
Patterson's contention he is being denied his due process was backed by two Republican lawmakers who also attended Tuesday's press conference.
"I'm a little concerned that there is a rush to judgment,' said Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction. And Fillmore said much of what he has seen in the charges against Patterson do not rise to the level where he should be ousted from the House.
"In our country, it is not illegal to be abrasive or, with all due respect, I don't mean this as it sounds, a jerk,' he said. Fillmore also said that if Patterson's constituents are unhappy with him and want him out, "there's a process to do that.'
Rep. Cecil Ash, R-Mesa, said Patterson should have a chance to defend himself in front of the Ethics Committee.
While Patterson told reporters the charges against him are all false, he was less forthcoming on one point in the report which said he had told legislative staffers that he regularly used marijuana.
"That's a personal question,' he said.
"If I occasionally may use cannabis like probably millions of people in the state, that would be my own personal business,' Patterson continued. "It has nothing to do at all with my conduct at the House,' he said, saying he has never used the drug either in the building or before he came to work.
And he sidestepped a question pointing out that possession of the drug is a crime.
"I have not been arrested or charged with possessing anything,' Patterson said.
The press conference also produced a charge by the Rev. Jarrett Maupin, who has been active in civil rights issues in Phoenix, that Patterson is the victim of racial discrimination of a sort.
"If Rep. Patterson was black like me, he could get an ethics hearing,' Maupin said. "If he was a woman, he'd have an ethics hearing; if he was in a wheelchair, he'd have an ethics hearing that is fair, in person, and allows him a chance to make his case.'
And Maupin said if Patterson were a minority, his colleagues "would not attempt to legislatively lunch him.' But Maupin said Patterson is "a middle-aged white man, and he's not included in what we as a society have labeled protected classes.'
Maupin has had his own legal problems in the past. He pleaded guilty several years ago to making a false report to the FBI about the activities of then-Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and was sentenced to five years' probation. Patterson said after the press conference that Maupin had approached him and he was unaware of Maupin's prior legal problems.