OCE Sent Three Cases to Ethics Panel in Third Quarter

Posted November 1, 2012 at 2:45pm

The Office of Congressional Ethics sent three new cases to the House Ethics Committee for further investigation in the third quarter, according to a report released Wednesday.

The fact-finding agency also reported that it had ended two of its ongoing internal probes prematurely and that another two cases en route to the committee were dropped because the subjects of the matters resigned.

Though the office does not comment on its cases, the dropped ones are likely related to former Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, who departed from Congress in July.

Three of McCotter’s former congressional staffers, Don Yowchuang, Paul Seewald and Mary Melissa Turnbull, will stand trial for their roles in an alleged ballot fraud scheme during the Michigan Republican’s re-election bid. Another staffer, Lorianne O’Brady, is serving 18 months of probation. The ethics office has jurisdiction over members of Congress and House staffers. McCotter’s former office said it did not have contact information for the former lawmaker or the staffers involved.

Only two other lawmakers left the House during the third quarter,  former Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) and Geoff Davis (R-Ky.). Both have confirmed they were unaware of any ethics investigation related to their official duties.

The House established the OCE in 2008 to review allegations of misconduct and refer matters to the Ethics Committee, which can determine appropriate sanctions. A statistical summary of the office’s work is published on a quarterly basis.

As of the end of September, the OCE had opened 32 cases in the 112th Congress and referred 13 of them to the committee for further review.

The office conducts its investigations in two stages: a 30-day preliminary review, followed by a 45-day second-phase review that may be extended by 14 days. At that point, the office sends the matter to the Ethics Committee with a recommendation for further review or dismissal.

If the office refers a matter with a recommendation for further review, the committee must release a report on the OCE’s findings after a 45-day period, which can be extended by an additional 45 days unless it forms an investigative subcommittee to look into the matter.

The OCE report on Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), whose matter was sent to the committee in August, will be released by Nov. 28. The report on Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), who is currently running for Senate, will be released by Feb. 9 or whenever the investigative subcommittee handling the matter concludes its case.

The committee has until Dec. 14 to release two OCE reports that it received in August unless it forms a subcommittee to investigate the cases further.

Emma Dumain contributed to this report.