Within a week of his arrest on bribery charges and subsequent not guilty plea, state Rep. Luis Arroyo’s colleagues in the Illinois House will meet to discuss if he should be removed from office.
Members of an Illinois House Special Investigating Committee will meet for the first time Friday in Chicago to review Arroyo's federal bribery charges.
Arroyo, D-Chicago, was arrested last week and has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors allege Arroyo bribed an unnamed state senator who was wearing a wire for federal investigators. After Arroyo's indictment, House leaders from both parties called on him to resign. Because he hasn’t resigned, they launched a special investigating committee.
University of Illinois at Springfield politics professor Kent Redfield said he expected lawmakers to act swiftly.
“If [Arroyo] were to be convicted, then he would forfeit his office,” Redfield said. “But given how much pressure and heat the legislature is under because of all of the search warrants and the fallout from the scandal with [Chicago Alderman Ed] Burke and that indictment, I think they’re trying very hard to get out in front of this.”
Redfield said Arroyo could resign, which would make the committee moot. If that doesn’t happen, Redfield said he expected lawmakers to move quickly to expel Arroyo with a resolution that could be voted on by the full House.
The committee's first hearing is at 1 p.m. Friday in the Bilandic Building in Chicago. It will be open to the public.
State Rep. Margo McDermed, the Mokena Republican who serves as the minority spokesperson for the committee, said she expected the first hearing to be procedural and establish ground rules for the process.
“We do have subpoena power, but we have to be cognizant of the fact that there is a federal criminal proceeding and we cannot and will not interfere with that,” McDermed said.
State Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, is the majority spokesman for the committee. He said it was unfortunate, but Illinois already has a blueprint on how to operate the committee after the expulsion of state Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago, in 2012.
After that expulsion vote, Smith won reelection, and by state law, he couldn't be expelled for a second time for the same offense, so he reclaimed his seat. After his conviction, his seat was forfeited by state law.
Crespo said legal staff members were working with federal prosecutors regarding Arroyo to ensure the committee's work won't disrupt the ongoing federal investigation.
Crespo said the hearing was important to send a message to taxpayers.
“I just want people to understand that most legislators in Springfield are good people,” he said. “And I think, as a legislator – and I’ve talked to my colleagues – there’s this dark cloud hanging over us and we need to make sure that we do the right thing and we need to make sure people understand that we’re here for the right reasons.”
A second committee hearing is set for next week. The committee could produce a recommendation to expel Arroyo from office.