Saying she found no violation, the chair of the Senate Ethics Committee on Wednesday tossed out the complaint of a House member against Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa.
Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, had said Crandall acted improperly when he left her a phone message saying he would use his position as chair of the Senate Education Committee to block any of Barton's legislation which came his way. Crandall said he was reacting to Barton taking pictures of his daughter taking down signs of a political foe and those pictures winding up on the Internet with what Crandall said were nasty comments.
But Ethics Committee Chairwoman Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, said even if Crandall made the threat, there is nothing inherently improper about it. She said those who chair committees make decisions all the time about what measures they will and will not consider.
"This year 1,395 bills were introduced and only 389 transmitted to the governor,'' Gray wrote in response to Barton.
"Can you imagine if all those legislators who didn't get their bill heard in a committee filed ethics complaints?'' Gray continued. "This would set a horrible precedent and would be a waste of time and taxpayer money for this to occur.''
And Gray said the fact that Crandall gave Barton a reason for killing future legislation, sight-unseen, is irrelevant.
"Sometimes the reason is known and other times it is not known by the person introducing the legislation on why their bill was not given a hearing,'' she wrote to Barton.
Gray also pointed out that Crandall has since written a letter to Barton asking her forgiveness and essentially rescinding his threat.
"I apologize for my behavior and look forward to hearing any legislation you bring forward that moves the needle for Arizona's kids,'' he wrote.
The ethics panel had been chaired by Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City. But Gould recused himself because Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, who is running for Senate against Crandall -- and whose signs were at issue in the complaint -- endorsed Gould in his own congressional bid. That led Senate President Steve Pierce to name Gray to the committee.
Under Senate rules, Gray's decision is final unless two other lawmakers on the five-member panel insist on having a hearing. At this point, that has not occurred.
Barton did not immediately return calls seeking comment.