Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Senator Bartz Cleared of Ethics Complaint

TNT is the place for drama. The senate ethics committee meeting at the Iowa Statehouse Tuesday was not. The six-member committee, 3 Republicans and 3 Democrats, took just seven minutes to decide Grafton Republican Senator Merlin Bartz did not violate ethics rules. Bartz is serving his 13th year in the statehouse (he served 12 before leaving the legislature and returning this year).

Bartz started a petition last month that urged county recorders to follow their beliefs, instead of the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling, that same-sex couples could get married. He hoped the recorders would refuse to grant licenses to same-sex couples. We have never found any of the 99 who have obeyed his request. Former Iowa lawmaker Ed Fallon and his wife, Lynn, filed the ethics complaint. They felt Bartz, as a public official, was unethical in his actions to push people to ignore state law. But lawmakers disagreed and said Bartz should be allowed to voice his opinion, citing his First Amendment rights.

Bartz said he was nervous about the whole thing. He said he didn't regret his actions. But he said the whole matter did make him think about it over and over to make sure he didn't do anything inappropriate. Bartz questioned why Fallon didn't show up for the meeting. Fallon said he didn't know about the metting. He told me he just got the letter in the mail from the secretary of the senate advising him of the meeting about 45 minutes after the meeting took place. Fallon also said he left messages with Senate President Jack Kibbie's office several times last week asking if he should be at the meeting. At the beginning of the meeting, Kibbie mentioned that no one else would speak during the proceedings.

I checked the state legislature's website. The committee meeting had been posted there.

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