I-Team

Last Illinois state house expulsion was in 1905

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Illinois General Assembly Thursday night is one step closer to throwing out Rep. Derrick Smith of Chicago.

Smith is facing federal corruption charges.

The last time a member of the state house was expelled was more than a century ago, although in between Frank Comerford in 1905 and Derrick Smith this year, there hasn't been much progress in weeding out wrongdoers.

Smith faces a double-edged sword: prosecutors in Chicago and his colleagues in Springfield.

The House Select Committee on Discipline recommended Derrick Smith's ouster. Smith was arrested March 13th by the FBI on charges he took a $7,000 bribe in exchange for rigging state grant money for a daycare center. The first term West Side representative wasn't present Thursday but his lawyer, Victor Henderson, was.

"The process has been represented to us that it was going to be fair and that it was going to be deliberate and that they were going to look at all the evidence and thus far it has not been deliberate, I do not perceive that it has been fair, and they have no evidence," said Henderson.

Smith's website suggests it's business-as-usual in the 10th District and proclaims his honesty and integrity.

The vote to expel him was 11 to one. Hazel Crest Democratic Representative Al Riley was the one against expulsion.

"There is an election coming up and I think that the final arbiter of him being able to serve his district should be up to the voters," said Riley.

If Smith is expelled, his seat will be filled by appointment within 30 days of the vacancy. The replacement selected by the Democratic Party would sit for the remainder of Smith's term, which wouldn't be long.

Smith would still be on the November ballot, setting up identically to the 1905 expulsion of Frank Comerford, who had merely complained loudly about corruption and was bounced for it. He won re-election to his own seat.

Regardless, early next year, Derrick Smith's main concern will be in the Dirksen Federal Building, when prosecutors lay out their bribery case against him built upon a secret government informant who was posing as a daycare operator and who enlisted Smith's hand in securing a state grant.

A week after he was indicted, Smith won the Democratic primary and is now bucking party leaders who want him off the November ballot. Smith hopes the release of more information in the bribery case will help voters see he was roped into a ruse and in federal court this week his attorneys convinced a judge to authorize release of some records that they will dirty up the government's undercover witness.

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