Three state Senators – one convicted of voter fraud and perjury and the other two facing federal corruption charges – were suspended from office Friday effective immediately.
The Senate voted 28-1 to suspend Sens. Leland Yee of San Francisco, Ron Calderon of Montebello and Rod Wright of Inglewood – all Democrats.
Wright was convicted in January of eight counts of voter fraud and perjury for lying about his place of residence when he voted and ran for office. Yee was accused Wednesday of gun running and selling favors for cash, in allegations that arose during a broad, five-year investigation into Chinatown-linked organized crime. Calderon was indicted on 24 federal counts, including money laundering and corruption. Calderon’s brother, a political consultant and former lawmaker, also was indicted.
Wright, even following his conviction on felony charges, has been on leave. Calderon who has not been convicted of a crime, also remains on leave and on the Senate payroll.
But the dramatic disclosures and allegations in the 137-page complaint released Wednesday involving Yee, Yee’s political fundraiser Keith Jackson, and Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a notorious figure in San Francisco’s Chinatown, marked the last straw and required more severe action, said Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
“I thought leaves of absence were sufficient,” Steinberg said. “Wednesday’s events changed my view.” He noted that he had asked for resignations earlier, but they declined.
The suspension – not expulsion, which is what some Republican senators had sought – means that the three lawmakers are barred from participating in Senate duties, including floor votes and hearings. They will continue to draw their $95,291 annually salaries.
Supporters of the suspension included Senate GOP Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, but some Republicans abstained from voting and one, Joel Anderson of Alpine, demanded a harsher penalty and voted no.
Anderson noted that Democrats derailed an earlier attempt to oust Calderon and Wright.
“We weren’t even given the chance to have an honest debate,” Anderson said.
“We’re lawmakers, we’re not above the law,” he said. “It’s wrong. Everybody outside this room gets it: Senators are not above the law.”