PHOENIX – Just days after Senate Republicans ousted Sen. Scott Bundgaard as Senate majority leader, the Senate Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint against the embattled senator.
Bundgaard, who was not at the proceeding, asserted his innocence in a formal response to the complaint. According to The Associated Press, Bundgaard says he was assaulted by Aubry Ballard but that he wants to resolve the matter without criminal prosecution.
The vote to dismiss the complaint was 3-2 along party lines.
Both the complaint and the ouster earlier this week stem from an alleged domestic violence incident involving Bundgaard and his now ex-girlfriend.
According to Phoenix police, Bundgaard and Ballard argued while driving home after the Dancing with the Stars Arizona charity event on Feb. 25, but they offered conflicting accounts on what else happened that night on State Route 51. Investigators said both Bundgaard and Ballard, who had been together for about seven months, had marks indicative of a physical altercation.
While Bundgaard, who enjoys legislative immunity while the Legislature is in session, did not go to jail, Ballard spent 17 hours behind bars.
Bundgaard, however, has insisted he did nothing wrong and will be vindicated.
Democratic Sen. Leah Landrum filed an ethics complaint against Bundgaard last week, saying that an initial police report indicated that the Peoria Republican might have violated state law.
Sen. Ron Gould, who chairs the Senate Ethics Committee, issued a statement regarding the decision to dismiss.
“Today’s motion to dismiss Sen. Landrum Taylor’s complaint against Sen. Bundgaard was due solely to the fact that Senator Landrum’s complaint did not comply with Senate rules regarding ethics complaints," Gould wrote.
“Specifically, according to Senate Ethics Rule 5(A)1.(a), a complaint must contain statements of fact within the personal knowledge of the complainant.
“In addition, the allegations contained in the complaint do not contain a claim that the Senate Ethics Code set forth in Senate Rule 29 has been violated pursuant to Senate Ethics Rule 5(A)1.(a).
“As a result, the Senate Ethics Committee is unable, at this time, to properly investigate the allegations contained in Senator Landrum Taylor’s complaint without compelling witnesses to provide the necessary evidence and testimony.
“It is the opinion of legal counsel that compelling testimony could possibly allow witnesses to obtain immunity from criminal prosecution under A.R.S. 41-1152.
“As I have stated previously, I do not want to interfere with any possible police investigation and/or prosecution of the alleged incident.
“Given these circumstances, I believe it would be inappropriate for the Senate Ethics Committee to proceed with a full investigation of this incident at this time.
“Today’s dismissal should not be taken as a decision based upon the merits of the complaint and does not, in any way, preclude a subsequent ethics complaint from being filed when the facts are determined and those facts demonstrate that a complaint is appropriate.”
The Phoenix Police Department has said it will forward its case to the city attorney's office to decide what, if any, charges might be filed.
On Tuesday, Senate Republicans voted Bundgaard out as majority leader. That move came a week after Senate Democrats called for Bundgaard to step down.
Republican Sen. Andy Biggs of Gilbert is the Arizona Senate's new majority leader.