Arizona House ethics panel tables complaint against Dem lawmaker

Arizona Democratic Rep. Robert Meza and Democratic Sen. Lisa Otondo

The Arizona House Ethics Committee on May 5 voted to take no action on a complaint against Democratic Rep. Robert Meza, with the committee chairman saying the allegations fell outside the panel’s ability to investigate.

Republican Rep. Travis Grantham said the complaint against Meza filed last month by Scottsdale resident Phillip Potter should be tabled indefinitely, and the committee agreed on a 4-1 vote.

Meza’s lawyer, Tim Nelson, said Monday that Potter’s complaint, which alleged a long-running fraud scheme operated by the Phoenix lawmaker, was false and part of an ongoing effort by Potter to get back at anyone who has had anything to do with his ex-wife.

Potter has filed numerous lawsuits in recent years, and court records show most were thrown out as unsupported. A judge threatened to seek to have him named a "vexatious litigant" for filing meritless lawsuits.

One of those lawsuits filed last year named his former wife, Meza and more than a dozen other people and accused them of conspiring to support an order of protection she obtained against him. It also recounted the same corruption allegations against Meza contained in the ethics complaint. The case against the ex-wife and Meza was dismissed.

Potter previously gave the material in the ethics complaint to the FBI, but Nelson said they took no action.

Grantham said the House panel was the wrong forum for Potter’s complaints.

"We’re not a prosecutorial arm of government, and I don’t anticipate us becoming one," Grantham said. "If Mr. Potter believes that he has evidence that Mr. Meza has engaged in criminal wrongdoing, it is to a law enforcement agency that Mr. Potter should take that evidence," Grantham said.

Republican Rep. Jacqueline Parker of Mesa was the lone dissenter.

"Some of the complaints do seem serious and in violation of our House rules," Parker said. "I think they could merit some investigation."

But Grantham said the House rule violations contained in Potter’s lengthy complaint were not made toward Meza but to people outside the Legislature who are not even state employees.

"A House ethics committee exists solely for that purpose, to deal with violations of rules against one another, internal to this body," Grantham said.

Potter also filed a complaint accusing Democratic state Sen. Lisa Otondo of helping Meza cover up the alleged schemes. The Senate’s ethics panel voted Monday to wait until its House counterpart decided how to handle Meza’s case before proceeding.

Senate Ethics Committee chair Sen. Sine Kerr said Thursday the complaint against Otondo will remain inactive unless the House panel decides to revive the one against Meza.