Republicans reject GOP member of ethics panel

Posted: Friday, April 25, 2003

Senate Republicans rejected the confirmation of Shirley McCoy to the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics on Thursday.

McCoy served as a Republican member of the public on the committee and was involved with an ethics ruling earlier this year against Senate Republican Press Secretary Ron Irwin.

"I think it's pretty clear, it's political payback," McCoy said.

McCoy, who has served on the committee for nine years, was rejected by a 12-8 vote of the Senate. The votes fell along party lines with all Republicans voting against her.

Democrats who defended McCoy during a brief debate also contended the vote was meant to punish her. Senate Minority Leader Johnny Ellis of Anchorage said the GOP moved in "lock-step" to send a message to future Republican members of the ethics committee.

The committee oversees ethical standards for lawmakers and staff and is made up of five members from the public and four legislators.

McCoy had riled Republicans with her vote against Irwin in a complaint that alleged he used state resources to do campaign-related work.

During confirmation hearings this session, McCoy was the subject of pointed questioning about the Irwin complaint.

Sen. Ralph Seekins, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee which considered her appointment, denied that her rejection was political retribution. The Fairbanks Republican cited her testimony as a basis for recommending that she not be retained.

During an exchange with another senator who asked her whether she thought it an "oxymoron" to have attorneys serving on an ethics committee, she joked that a legislative ethics committee was an oxymoron.

Seekins read the quote during debate and said "I think it's time for a new member with a new perspective."

The Senate unanimously confirmed the appointments of Herman Walker Jr. and Dennis "Skip" Cook to the ethics committee on Thursday. Cook's two-year term was to expire in January 2004 and Walker has served on an interim bases since June. They are nonpartisan, public members.

Cook also voted against Irwin in the complaint and he was approved by the Senate, Seekins said.

Irwin was cited by the Senate Subcommittee of the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics for calling a news conference during the election to blast a speech by then-gubernatorial candidate Fran Ulmer.

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