House Speaker Michael Madigan promised to challenge the choice of a committee set to pick the replacement for an indicted former state representative if that former lawmaker has any input in the decision.
Indicted former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, said he plans to use his political clout to choose who will fill his newly vacated seat in the Illinois House. In a letter to other Cook County Democratic Party officials, Arroyo said his vote totals gave him a weighted vote on who will be appointed to serve out the rest of his term.
“As the democratic committeeman with the greatest number of weighted votes in the 3rd District and the recognized Chair of the 3rd Representative District Committee, I am calling a meeting of the democratic committeeman for the purpose of filing (sic) the vacancy created by my retirement from the Illinois House of Representatives,” Arroyo said.
Last month, Arroyo was arrested after being caught on a federal wire recording offering a state senator a bribe. He has pleaded not guilty. He stepped down from his statehouse seat earlier this month, hours before a bipartisan House Special Investigations Committee was prepared to begin hearings that could have led to his expulsion. If a vacancy occurs within a certain amount of time before an election, state law requires a vacancy to be filled within 30 days. The vacancy is filled by a local committee from the former lawmaker’s political party.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, also is the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois. He issued a statement through his Illinois House office on Monday. He told the Democratic committee members responsible for filling Arroyo’s vacancy to conduct the process without the participation of the 36th Ward, the ward where Arroyo is the Democratic committeeman.
“Any process that includes the participation of the 36th Ward – whether by direct vote or by proxy – would call the legitimacy of the appointment into question, and the qualifications of their candidate would be challenged by the full Illinois House of Representatives,” Madigan wrote in a letter.
The state’s constitution says the House and Senate shall “judge the elections, returns and qualifications of its members.” House rules spell out a process of objecting to a members’ qualification. A vote of two-thirds is needed to expel a member.
Lawmakers return to Springfield on Tuesday.
Arroyo is just one of several state lawmakers to come under federal scrutiny so far this year. State Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, was charged with embezzling from a labor union. He has pleaded not guilty. His chairmanship was shifted from the Senate Labor Committee to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, a move that allowed him to keep a stipend on top of his base lawmaker pay. He remains in office.
Federal agents raided the home and offices of state Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Cicero, looking for evidence of possible kickback scheme involving several industries, including the gambling and transportation sectors. Although he has not been charged with a crime, Sandoval stepped down from his chairmanship of the Senate Transportation Committee. He remains in office.
In response to the federal probes, lawmakers have proposed changes to ethics rules. Those proposals have included barring state lawmakers from also being a lobbyist at the local level and giving the Legislative Inspector General independence from a panel of lawmakers on the Legislative Ethics Commission to investigate allegations of lawmaker wrongdoing.