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House Ethics panel declines to drop Gutierrez probe

Updated: May 5, 2014 3:23PM

WASHINGTON—The House Committee on Ethics announced on Monday it will continue a review of whether Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., violated House rules and federal law through a hiring agreement he made with his former chief of staff, Doug Scofield, while declining to take the more serious step of creating a special panel to investigate the allegations.

The committee chairman, Rep. Michael Conway, R-Texas, and ranking member, Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., said in a four-paragraph statement they will continue to “gather additional information necessary” for the review and did not set a timetable for their work to be completed.

At issue is the $590,000 Scofield received over 10 years from federal funds allocated to run Gutierrez’s congressional office.

The ethics probe is looking at whether Scofield functioned as a contractor — which is permissible — or if his long-term relationship with Gutierrez’s congressional office was really more like that of a consultant who functioned almost like an employee, which is not allowed.

“Today’s announcement by the Committee reveals that it will not convene a special ethics panel. As the Committee reviews this matter, Congressman Gutiérrez and his office will continue to cooperate fully. As the Committee points out, its review does not indicate that any violation has occurred or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee,” Gutierrez spokesman Doug Rivlin said in a statement.

“After its exhaustive review, the OCE made a single recommendation that the House Committee on Ethics assess whether the approved contract was permissible under ambiguous House rules.

“As part of its review, the OCE examined questions relating to lobbying, campaign activities and the Congressman’s memoir. The OCE ultimately found no conduct on those issues that necessitated additional review by the House Committee on Ethics.

“The report reflects that Congressman Gutiérrez’s office submitted the entire contract for review by both the Committee on House Administration and the finance office of the House of Representatives before Mr. Scofield performed any work. The report also establishes that the Congressman’s office resubmitted the contract to the House at the beginning of each new Congress and that the contractual payments were disclosed in public, quarterly reports of disbursements for the House.

“The Congressman and his office cooperated fully with the inquiry of the OCE. The OCE requested ten years of records, files, notes and communications (including e-mails) between Doug Scofield and Congressman Gutiérrez and the Congressman’s staff. The Congressman and ten current or former staff members also voluntarily spoke with the OCE,” Rivlin said.

While Gutierrez talked to OCE investigators, Scofield declined to cooperate.

That Scofield is a close friend of Gutierrez — and the lawmaker threw him a lifeline at a critical point in Scofield’s life — is not in dispute.

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