LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

You could call it a kind of Capitol quarantine -- a decision by the leaders of the state Senate to remove Sen. Ron Calderon from all of his committee assignments, while rejuvenating the upper house's ethics panel to possibly examine allegations made against the Democratic politician.

"I hope that this is all untrue, but it isn't about him," said Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, after the Senate's rules committee stripped Calderon of his committee work. "It is about protecting the integrity of the Senate."

The committee, in a series of unanimous votes on Tuesday afternoon, removed Calderon from his position as chair of the Senate's insurance committee as well as his position on three other policy panels. Senators also abolished the special committee chaired by Calderon, D-Montebello, to examine the state's movie industry.

That last action was sparked by the nature of the allegations made against the legislator, laid out in a once-sealed FBI affidavit accusing him of accepting some $88,000 in bribes -- mostly from FBI agents posing as movie executives interested in changes to California's movie production tax credit.

"Our job," said Senate leader Steinberg during the brief hearing, "is to uphold the code of ethics of the Senate and the standard of conduct expected of public officials."

Only one other senator on the rules committee spoke on the issue; Sen. Hanna-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, urged her colleagues to remember "that there is due process that we must make available to everyone."

Neither Calderon nor any of his staff were in attendance at the hearing. But in an emailed statement issued after the committee's action, the senator lashed out at his colleagues and the media.

"I have not been charged or convicted with any unjust doing, yet I am being treated by this committee and some media outlets as if I had," said Calderon in the statement. "Removing me from my committee assignments sends a risky and unsuitable message regarding our fundamental constitutional rights and the presumption of innocence."

Calderon's troubles were made public in June, when FBI agents raided his Capitol offices. On Oct. 30, the cable news network Al Jazeera America broadcast a story with details from a sealed affidavit laying out a series of charges against the senator.

The FBI document also raised questions about the operations of the Legislative Latino Caucus, which Calderon was poised to lead this year before being sidelined. On Tuesday, caucus chair Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Los Angeles, announced that Calderon had been removed from the caucus' executive committee.

And there are preparations for possibly more actions, depending on the outcome of the FBI investigation. The Senate's rules committee also boosted the chamber's ethics panel, filling two vacancies and announcing that the Legislature's top legal counsel has hired Bill Portonova, a Sacramento criminal attorney.

Portonova told the Senate committee on Tuesday that the U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles has asked for Capitol inquiries to not begin just yet.

"They are at a sensitive time," said Portonova.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://on.news10.net/1hLnj90