Panel recommends expulsion of State Rep. Derrick Smith

July 19, 2012 (CHICAGO)

This special state House investigative committee has recommended the full legislature meet and expel the lawmaker, who was indicted for accepting a bribe from a government informant.

"On the motion recommending expulsion as the penalty, the votes are 11 yes and 1 no," said Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago).

Without any speeches, the 12 member, bi-partisan committee voted 11-1 to recommend the expulsion of Rep. Derrick Smith of the 10th Legislative District on Chicago's West Side.

Chairman Barbara Flynn Currie said the legislature's integrity is at stake.

"I think we're talking about the integrity of the House of Representatives, the qualifications, the fitness of the members of the House of Representatives," said Flynn Currie.

Smith was arrested in March by the FBI on charges that he took a $7,000 bribe in exchange for using his office to support a grant for a daycare center. The daycare center and was part of a federal sting operation.

The lawmaker's attorney said the House committee, which did not have access to government evidence and witnesses, had no cause to discipline Smith.

"The process says that you get to face your accusers - there's nobody here. The process says there's supposed to be evidence, there's not a shred of paper that says he's done anything wrong," said attorney Victor Henderson.

Smith, who was appointed to the 10th District seat, won the March primary despite his arrest nine days earlier. Smith says he is innocent and will not drop out of the race or resign.

The Republican and Democratic House members assigned to represent case before their committee both complained that the absent smith owed his colleagues an explanation.

"We are here because of the conscious decisions and actions made by Rep. Derrick Smith in his official capacity as Illinois State Representative in the 10th District," said Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs). "He isn't here today. I want you to look at that empty chair during the course of these proceedings and remember that."

"Do you hear the silence? Nowhere in Mr. Henderson's comments, nowhere has anybody denied this charge," said Rep. Lou Lang (R-Skokie).

The only vote against the expulsion recommendation was cast by Democratic Rep. Al Riley of Hazel Crest.

"My own view is I thought that one of the under penalties right under expulsion would have been the best one after all," said Riley. "It probably would have been censure."

Censure would have allowed Smith to remain in office until the November election when his constituents could decide his fate. If the full house meets and does expel Smith before the election, Smith's name still will appear on the ballot as the Democratic candidate.

Another question surrounds when the house can meet to take an expulsion vote. There is some talk of a special session next month on the pension issue but nothing definite.

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