In his Thursday metro side column, the Post‘s David Harsanyi shines the light on a series of cases that give Coloradans plenty of reason to be cynical about politics. Maybe as cynical as one of my commenters, who after my post on Deanna Hanna’s more legally serious misdeeds implied that I was ignoring the Stengel affair because of party loyalties.
Memo to commenter: sorry for giving you an excuse to feed your cynicism. If you would care to respond to this post and reveal your identity, my respect for you will increase greatly.
Harsanyi’s lead case is indeed that of Republican House Minority Leader Joe Stengel, who charged taxpayers for 240 days of work last year, including a trip to Hawaii. Yesterday, five of Stengel’s constituents formally called for an Ethics Committee investigation. It may be time for such a course of action, though the danger exists that any action will be tainted by those striving for partisan political advantage.
Even so, the Republican representative from Arapahoe County needs to remain transparent and willing to accept the legitimate consequences that he may soon face – including the potential findings of an Ethics Committee. His admittedly “bad judgment” has been a distraction from the party’s agenda. Strong consideration should be given to replacing Stengel in his leadership post as a means to end the distraction, and to show the GOP has a higher standard of accountability to the taxpayer. At the least, the unprecedented billing of 240 days in one year looks bad, very bad. While technically legal under an ambiguous code, his actions erred on the wrong side of ethical judgment.
Stengel did the right thing by issuing a formal apology and returning 9 days’ pay from the Hawaii vacation and his study for the bar exam – though he may have waited too long to do so. Only time will tell if he has done enough.
Update: Developments are happening faster than anticipated. News reports indicate Stengel has resigned his minority leader post and called a special Republican caucus meeting to choose a replacement. Kudos to him for a tough decision. Speculation about the potential replacement begins – Bill Cadman, Al White, and Mike May have to be names in consideration – but we’ll see where it goes. Unlike the analysis from the other side, I think resigning now will be a help and not “a hit” to the GOP in the long run.
Now what are Democrats going to do about Senator Hanna?