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State senator facing ethics complaint from colleague due to attendance record

Mendez said he and his wife, state Rep. Athena Salman, are avoiding in-person appearances at the Capitol to protect their child from exposure to COVID-19.
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 6:04 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Republican state Sen. T.J. Shope said he plans to file an ethics complaint this week against one of his Democratic colleagues over his attendance record. Shope is concerned that Sen. Juan Mendez, a Democrat from Tempe, has missed 63 days of the 2022 Legislative session while attending just three days in person.

According to Senate records, all but one of the absences were excused by leadership. Mendez said he and his wife, state Rep. Athena Salman, are avoiding in-person appearances at the Capitol to protect their child from exposure to COVID-19.

Since the session began, Mendez and Salman have expressed frustration about no longer being able to connect virtually to hearings at the Capitol. “I’m unaware of any efforts by Sen. Shope to allow for remote voting away from the Capitol in order to protect my baby from COVID,” Mendez wrote in a statement. “If he would like to join me in calling for remote voting, I’d be happy to commit to a perfect attendance record.”

According to Senate records, despite the absences, Mendez has collected about $4,200 in per diem payments on top of his $24,000 legislative salary. “There is an expectation level from the voters that their legislators are going to show up for work on a daily basis,” Shope said during an on-camera interview.

His comments come a couple of days after the GOP-led Senate voted to open an ethics investigation into Sen. Wendy Rogers, a Republican from Flagstaff, for appearing to suggest the federal government was responsible for the mass shooting in Buffalo that left ten people dead.