Tue, May 21

Arizona Bar initiates investigation of State Rep. David Stringer

Rep. David Stringer. Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services

Rep. David Stringer. Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- David Stringer's legal problems multiplied Wednesday as the State Bar of Arizona launched an investigation to determine if he lied on his application to practice law here.

Spokesman Rick DeBruhl confirmed that there is an inquiry into what Stringer did or did not disclose when he moved to Arizona and applied to be admitted to the Bar here. That permission was granted by the state Supreme Court in early 2004.

DeBruhl said he could not comment further. But he said investigations like this normally are resolved within 30 days.

Records from Maryland show that Stringer. a Prescott Republican member of the House living in Baltimore at the time, was arrested in 1983 on multiple charges, including child pornography. Those records, obtained by Phoenix New Times, also show that he entered into a plea agreement that required him to seek treatment from a doctor known for his sex-offender program.

The deal was that the criminal record would be expunged if he completed probation.

But Aaron Nash, spokesman for the Arizona Supreme Court, said the application form submitted to the Committee on Character and Fitness requires disclosure of all arrests, regardless of whether there was a conviction. And Nash said the forms also ask for all criminal records, even if the conviction was expunged.

Nash said he could not disclose what Stringer disclosed as the applications are not public records.

Stringer did not return a message seeking comment on the Bar investigation.

The new inquiry comes as Stringer faces two complaints filed with the House Ethics Committee over statements about race and immigration he made last year as well as the newly discovered criminal record.

And House Speaker Rusty Bowers has suspended Stringer from the Government Committee while the ethics complaints are reviewed. Stringer had previously been removed from other House committees.

All this is occurring as Rep. T.J. Shope, who chairs the Ethics Committee, has sent copies of the two complaints against Stringer to him as well as to the other four members of the panel for their review.

One is from Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, with the other from Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen. Both cite the same incidents of Stringer's comments last year, the report of his arrest, as well as comments Stringer made to the Arizona Daily Independent seeking to explain why he agreed to a plea deal. And both say that the comments and the criminal charges, if true, mean Stringer is guilty of conduct that undermines the confidence of the public in the House.

Stringer is entitled to file a written response, though no deadline has yet been set. That, in turn, could lead to public hearings where evidence against Stringer could be presented and Stringer would have a chance to present his own case and question witnesses.

The committee then would make a finding if his conduct violated House ethics rules and, if so, a recommendation of the appropriate punishment. But final action would be up to the full House.

Bolding previously called for a House vote to summarily oust Stringer but agreed to back off to see what comes of the Ethics Committee probe and whether that results in any sort of disciplinary action against him.

The inquiry by the State Bar is independent of whatever happens to Stringer in the House. Potentially more significant, it could affect his livelihood regardless of whether he gets to remain a legislator.

A copy of the application form used when Stringer applied for admission more than 15 years ago was not available.

The current form, however, asks applicants whether, as an adult or juvenile, they have "ever been served with a criminal summons, questioned, arrested, taken into custody, indicated, charged with, tried for, pleaded guilty to'' any violation of any law or statute.

More to the point, it directs applications to include all incidents, "whether guilty or not, whether expunged or not, whether you believe or were advise that you need not disclose any such instance.''

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