Soon after it was revealed that Assemblyman Mike Duvall had boasted about having sex with lobbyists, Speaker Karen Bass called on the Assembly's ethics committee to investigate.
If you can put aside the puerile aspects of Duvall's bragging, there's a legitimate question of whether his self- reported relationships with lobbyists influenced any legislation or budget matters.
But before an inquiry could get started, Duvall resigned. So now, many weeks later, Bass has announced she will not pursue any kind of internal probe.
The speaker based her decision on a legal opinion by Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine. The legislative counsel had been asked if the ethics committee had jurisdiction "to investigate a former Member of the Assembly regarding conduct that occurred during the former Assembly Member's term of office."
Not surprisingly, Boyer-Vine said "No," concluding that an Assembly member becomes a private citizen upon resigning from office, and thus is not subject to the Assembly's jurisdiction.
The legislative counsel's opinion is sound as far as it goes. But it's further truth of the old adage: "A lawyer will give you any answer you want if you ask the right question."
Imagine if the question had been framed differently: Could the Assembly review past legislation or laws that might have been influenced by a past member's relationship with lobbyists?
And if such evidence were uncovered, should the Assembly determine if its current ethics rules are adequate to prevent even the perception of impropriety?
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