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AZ House panel won't investigate Smith for disorderly behavior, though he may face criminal charges

Austin Smith
Austin Smith speaks with media outside the Arizona State Capitol on Jan. 9, 2023.

Arizona’s House Ethics Committee won’t investigate Republican Rep. Austin Smith (R-Wittman) for disorderly behavior, though he still may face criminal charges for forgery.

On May 3, four Democrats filed an ethics complaint against Smith, shortly after one of his constituents sued him, alleging that he forged signatures on the nomination petition sheets he needed to qualify for the ballot. 

Smith denied the forgery, but he dropped out of his reelection race. The matter of potential forgery was passed along to the state Attorney General’s Office.

The Democrats accused Smith of “disorderly behavior.” They argue that because he may face criminal charges, he’s also “tarnishing the public’s perception” of the House. 

On Thursday, Republican ethics chairman Rep. Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale) explained that he won’t take up the complaint because he says the Democrats don’t have “personal knowledge” Smith did anything wrong.

He said the complaint would require a “speculative inquiry” outside the committee’s jurisdiction.

House Minority Leader Rep. Lupe Contreras (D-Avondale) responded to Chaplik’s decision swiftly, questioning why the response came two weeks after the request for a hearing was filed.

“We gave Republicans ample time to hold their member accountable, but it became clear today that they have no intention of doing that. I thank our members for stepping up for accountability,” Contreras said in a statement.

Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.