Monday, April 30, 2012

Smith plans to appear before House investigative committee

By Jamey Dunn

A lawmaker who entered a plea of not guilty today on bribery charges also plans to appear before a legislative committee charged with deciding whether he will face disciplinary action.

A House Special Investigative committee decided last week to ask Rep. Derrick Smith to appear and testify under oath. The vote came after U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald told the committee that he would not share information from his investigation of Smith and asked that members not try to obtain such information. Smith is accused of taking a $7,000 bribe in exchange for writing a letter of recommendation for a day care center he believed was seeking a grant. Smith, a Chicago Democrat, was the subject of a federal sting, so the day care center was not actually seeking the grant.

Victor Henderson, Smith’s lawyer, said that Smith plans to appear before the House committee. “Yes. He absolutely will be appearing in Springfield in front of the committee,” Henderson said. “The representative will definitely be there and is looking forward to the opportunity to speak in some detail about where he is and his continued desire to serve and represent the people in his district.”

Smith could opt not to testify by evoking his Fifth Amendment rights, but Rep. Elaine Nekrtiz, chair of the committee, said that the group could take such a move under consideration when deciding whether there is reason to pursue disciplinary action against Smith. If the committee decides action is warranted the full House could vote to censure or even expel Smith.

Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, said she expects the committee’s next hearing to take place this week or next week.

Henderson said he did not know when Smith would be scheduled to appear. “When it happens, he will be there."

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