LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — State senators in Sacramento are receiving a refresher in ethics as part of the fallout from a series of legal cases involving two Southland lawmakers this year.
KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg canceled committee hearings Wednesday and ordered senators and their top aides to devote the day to ethics training.
The move comes in response to recent suspensions of Sens. Ronald Calderon of Montebello and Leland Yee of San Francisco after they were indicted on federal criminal charges involving bribery.
Calderon is accused of accepting $100,000 in bribes for friends and family in exchange for influencing legislation, and Yee was charged with accepting bribes and orchestrating weapons trafficking to help pay off campaign debts. Yee also was charged with trying to orchestrate weapons trafficking.
A third Democrat, Sen. Rod Wright of Los Angeles, was convicted earlier this year of voter fraud and perjury for lying about his legal residence.
Wednesday’s schedule includes a presentation about creating a culture of ethics by Scott Raecker, chief executive of the Josephson Institute of Ethics and executive director of Character Counts In Iowa, a nonprofit housed at Drake University.
A panel discussion led by three election and campaign attorneys, including Democratic lawyer Lance Olson, Republican lawyer Chuck Bell and former assistant U.S. Attorney John Panneton, was also scheduled. Senators and staff were expected to be presented with hypothetical scenarios on ethical and legal issues.
Steinberg said the purpose of the closed-door sessions is to reflect on existing practices and prevent compromising situations that might involve conflicts of interests.
“Some of it is common sense and character,” said Steinberg. “But I do think it is just important to reinforce that there’s a right way to do the job.”
The goal of the sessions, according to Steinberg, is not only to advise senators and their staffs where the ethical line is, but to make sure they avoid crossing it in the future.
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