Ethics report: Rep. Daniel Patterson should be expelled

State Representative Daniel Patterson should be expelled from office, according to an Ethics report.

The 33 page report regarding State Representative Daniel Patterson’s Ethic’s complaint for his alleged domestic violence was released today. The report was submitted by independent counselors hired by the Legislature. The scope of the investigation was not limited to the domestic violence allegations made in the February 27, 2012.

The special counselors, Michael C. Manning, Craig A. Morgan, Sharon W. Ng, and Danelle G. Kelling of Stinson Morrison Hecker, LLP, were asked to (i) investigate and report whether Rep. Patterson has engaged in a pattern of inappropriate, indecorous, illegal, or unethical conduct in violation of law or the House Rules, and (ii) recommend a course of disciplinary action.

Summary of Conclusions And Recommendations

Based on our investigation, as more fully detailed below, we have reached the following conclusions:

• The deep distrust, concern for, and fear of Rep. Patterson is bipartisan, bicameral, otherwise broad, and is borne of widely experienced incidents of disruption, deceptions, indecorum, and threats that are too frequent and too egregious.

• Rep. Patterson has a legacy of violating and ignoring both the Rules of the House of Representatives, 50th Legislature, 2011-2012 (the “House Rules”) and generally accepted concepts of civility and professionalism.

• Rep. Patterson routinely verbally abuses, assaults, and harasses his colleagues, legislative staff, and lobbyists – especially if one dares to disagree with him.

• Rep. Patterson routinely challenges but then ignores admonishment for his behavior and unprofessional outbursts, often retaliating through verbal abuse and, on occasion, has either feigned or actually threatened to physically assault those that did not agree with him.

• Rep. Patterson has allegedly violated, and may even continue to violate, court orders. We have not investigated whether Rep. Patterson has violated any criminal laws. Our findings and conclusions would be the same whether Rep. Patterson has violated any criminal laws.

• Rep. Patterson has admitted to staff that he frequently uses marijuana.

• Tellingly, during our truncated interview with him, he refused to answer questions about his “frequent use of marijuana” while steadfastly denying having ever used cocaine, methamphetamine, or any other illegal drug. In fact, when asked why he refused to answer questions about “frequent use of marijuana” his answer was very peculiar; he said: “I am refusing to answer that question based upon my privacy rights under the U.S. Constitution and all other rights under our Constitution.” When asked whether that included or meant the 5th Amendment, he said “No, I am not invoking the 5th Amendment.”

• Rep. Patterson appears to have tampered with the complainant in the pending criminal case against him, presumably in violation of a court order. In fact, Ms. Georgette Escobar’s peculiar Facebook recantation of her abuse allegations against Rep. Patterson was one subject of our truncated interview of Rep. Patterson on March 27, 2012. Rep. Patterson repeatedly refused to answer our questions about whether he wrote that recantation for Ms. Escobar without her permission or through his intimidation of Ms. Escobar. His basis for refusing to answer was peculiar and strained.

• Rep. Patterson has sought personal favors in exchange for his votes on legislation.

• Substantial evidence exists that Rep. Patterson has engaged in a pattern of disorderly behavior and other misconduct in violation of the House Rules (particularly House Rules 1, 14, 18 and 19).

• Discipline of Rep. Patterson is warranted.

• Over the last several years, Rep. Patterson has been counseled on numerous occasions by House leadership concerning his disruptive, offensive, and deceptive conduct. That conduct is then repeated in spite of that counsel and related discipline. Thus, a minor disciplinary sanction, such as censure or reprimand, will not deter Rep. Patterson from future misconduct.

The investigation was limited to a compressed time frame – approximately two weeks – and consisted of (i) reviewing the Ethics Complaint and Rep. Patterson’s multiple responses; (ii) reviewing public records; (iii) interviews with a number of legislators, staff members, lobbyists, and members of the public who have personally interacted with Rep. Patterson or witnessed his behavior; and (iv) a one and a quarter hour interview with Rep. Patterson. A significant amount of firm resources were devoted to this investigation, including assigning a dedicated team of lawyers and other professionals, in an effort to conduct the most comprehensive investigation possible under such a short timeframe.

The gravity of this assignment, and its potential historical impact, were immediately evident. Some level of passion, indecorum, aggressiveness, persuasion, and occasional loss of professionalism and truthfulness is a predictable facet of the rough and tumble of politics and public service in the constant spotlight. SMHLLP assumed this assignment aware that life in a legislative session is not always – perhaps not even frequently – polite, professional, dispassionate, or free of adversarial sleight of hand. They also assumed this assignment with a keen deference to constituents’ right to make an ill-advised, or even deplorable, choice of the men and women those constituents want to represent them in legislative or executive offices.

Those constituent choices should not be disrupted except in the most egregious of circumstances. Thus, the investigation was governed by a rebuttable presumption that the people’s choice, even a very bad one, is nearly inviolable.

The witnesses interviewed agreed with that rebuttable presumption. Over 80% of the Members, legislative staff, lobbyists, and others we interviewed believe that Rep. Patterson is a serious discredit and threat to the House, its Members, the legislative process his party, and his constituents. All but a few of the 20% balance otherwise feel that Rep. Patterson is unfit for office. But many in that minority of witnesses believe that however unfit, unstable, or dangerous he may be, Rep. Patterson was elected to his position and that constituent decision is perfectly sacrosanct unless Rep. Patterson is actually convicted of criminal misbehavior. That well-intentioned minority was not asked to balance the ethereal protection of Rep. Patterson’s District’s decision with the very real burden Rep. Patterson places on the legislative interests of every other legislative district. Nevertheless, our Constitution and the House Rules are far less tolerant of egregious misconduct that is not necessarily criminal than that minority view and those principles guided our investigation. Rep Patterson was asked repeatedly to discuss the investigation with the Firm at a mutually convenient time. In fact, Rep. Patterson has not been eager to cooperate with the investigation on anyone’s terms other than his own. Whether through desperate denial or a disturbing refusal to acknowledge reality, Rep. Patterson insisted on ignoring the scope of this investigation and the House’s lawful ability to discipline him, instead he attempted to unilaterally narrow the scope of this investigation.

Of course, SMLLLP repeatedly explained to Rep. Patterson the scope of this investigation. Yet, even as recently as March 27, 2012, Rep. Patterson was quoted in the press as claiming no understanding of the scope of this investigation and refusing to acknowledge the House’s constitutional authority to discipline its Members – including him. The Republic on-line editorial dated March 27, 2012 quoting Rep. Patterson as stating: “‘I am duly elected and lawfully seated so, Laurie, it’s not up to you to decide whether it’s appropriate for me to sit in the Legislature or not,’ he said. ‘No disrespect, it’s not up to you, it’s not up to Katie Hobbs, it’s not up to anybody in the Legislature. It’s up to my voters.’ Yuma Sun on-line article dated March 26, 2012 quoting Rep. Patterson as stating: “It’s extremely frustrating to get the Ethics Committee to define what they’re doing,’ he said. ‘Our feeling is it’s more like a fishing expedition.”; Rep. Patterson’s Tweeted on March 22, 2012, “Seems Vogt & his investigator Manning on ‘fishing expedition’ with little respect for constitution, due process, rules, scope, etc.”.

Unfortunately, SMHLLP could neither force Rep. Patterson to understand the gravity of this investigation nor persuade him to meaningfully cooperate with efforts to find and present the facts.

Accordingly, based on the investigation, the results of which are more fully described in the full report, SMHLLP reluctantly recommends that, in light of his extraordinary and very predictable pattern of disorderly, indecorous, and deceptive behavior, coupled with the ineffectiveness of earlier counseling, reprimand, and discipline, Rep. Patterson should be expelled from the House.