By Jayette Bolinski | Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD — The attorney for indicted Illinois Rep. Derrick Smith on Monday said the House committee looking into possible discipline against Smith is moving too fast and lacks the information it needs to make a fair decision.
The bipartisan House Select Committee on Discipline convened for the first time June 27. Its final hearing is set for July 19. That is when the committee expects to decide if Smith, a Chicago Democrat under federal indictment for allegedly accepting a $7,000 bribe in connection with his job as a state legislator, should face professional punishment. He could be expelled, censured, reprimanded or exonerated.
“All you’re doing is undercutting the system of Democracy we have. We might as well be in Communist Russia if this is the way things are going to proceed,” said Smith’s Chicago attorney, Victor Henderson. “This is not something you’d expect to see from one of the greatest states in the union.”
Much of the committee’s business between now and the final hearing, including the exchange of evidence with Henderson, will occur through email, according to a schedule released Friday. Committee chairwoman state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, can call additional hearings as needed.
The committee and Smith must disclose to each other by July 6 all evidence they intend to introduce at the final hearing.By July 13, each side can object to the other’s evidence. By July 16, each side must respond to the objections raised by the opposing party.
Currie may rule on the objections in a written order or may issue her rulings at the final hearing, which will occur in Chicago.
State Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who is on the committee, said all of the emails will be posted on the committee’s website.
“Everything will be in the public record,” he said.
Rose said the evidence will dictate the length of the hearing, but he expects the hearing will not extend beyond July 19, he said.
“The committee will come back after deliberating and then make a vote on exoneration or a finding plus whatever penalty,” Rose said, adding that the committee’s deliberations could go beyond July 19.
“The timeline stands in stark and direct contrast to how the (committee chairwoman) said the proceedings were going to proceed,” Henderson said. “She said they were going to be ‘fair and deliberate,’ and this expedited hearing schedule stands in stark contrast to what was represented publicly.”
Henderson noted that lawmakers have asked for the same evidence and information that he and Smith have requested from the federal government, and all have been denied.
“And now they’re going to proceed without all of the material or important information,” he said.
“I think the process is much bigger than Derrick Smith. It’s about what type of honesty and integrity and transparency we expect as citizens from legislators in Springfield.
“I think it doesn’t matter what it is. Whatever actions they take, including disciplinary hearings, should be honest and above board and fair and deliberate. I think that should apply to everything that happens, or else people will lose faith in the system.”
Smith was indicted in April on a federal bribery charge, and his case is pending in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois.
Henderson said Smith has no plans to step down from his post.
Jayette Bolinski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.