Times Reporter

September 19, 2006

Embattled representative steps down from two committee posts Monday

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON – Ohio state Sen. Joy Padgett, retiring U.S. Rep. Bob Ney’s hand-picked successor to replace him on the November ballot, called for his immediate resignation Monday in the wake of his admission to criminal wrongdoing.

If Ney, R-Heath, doesn’t resign, Padgett said, Congress “should take action to expel Congressman Ney as soon as possible.”

Earlier Monday, Dover Law Director Zack Space, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 18th District, issued a statement blasting Padgett for failing to call for Ney’s resignation.

The Justice Department announced Friday that Ney will plead guilty next month to corruptly accepting gifts from lobbyists and a businessman in exchange for using his official position as a congressman to assist them. He also filed false reports with Congress to conceal his dealings.

Padgett, R-Coshocton, said in her statement that Ney’s “admission of guilt to serious charges requires his immediate resignation.” She said Congress as an institution “must be beyond reproach and without blemish.”

The state legislator’s demand followed a similar call Friday from Ohio Republican Party Chairman Robert Bennett, who said Ney’s “apology rings hollow in the context of the many months he spent denying his corrupt behavior.”

Ney faces as many as 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, but prosecutors are recommending he be imprisoned for 27 months based on federal sentencing guidelines.

Hours before Padgett called on Ney to quit Congress, Ney resigned from the chairmanships of two congressional panels. But he has not signaled whether he plans to resign from Congress before his sixth term ends in December.

Ney’s attorney William Lawler III on Monday said he had not heard anything new about whether Ney plans to resign and did not know when he would return to Congress from an alcohol treatment program he checked into last week.

Lawler has not revealed where Ney is being treated to protect his and his family’s privacy, he said.

In letters to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., Ney resigned effective Monday from chairing a housing subcommittee and the Franking Commission, a panel that oversees lawmakers’ use of public funds to pay for government-related mailings to their constituents.

Ney told Hastert that he was proud of the accomplishments that he and other lawmakers had achieved on the housing panel, including creation of “housing opportunities and assistance” throughout the country.

Once a rising star in Congress, Ney began his public descent in November 2004 when testimony in a Senate committee hearing implicated him in a scheme to defraud Indians orchestrated by convicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Ney was forced to give up his chairmanship of the House Administration Committee, a position appointed by Hastert, when Abramoff pleaded guilty in January.

Ney withdrew his bid for re-election in early August when he also announced his support for Padgett to replace him on the ballot.

Padgett, whose state senate district shares several counties with Ney’s congressional district, won a special election Thursday to run as the Republican candidate for the seat in November.

Padgett’s campaign manager, Lindsay Shuba, said Padgett hasn’t talked with Ney since he told her he was withdrawing his bid for re-election last month.

Shuba said Padgett has “absolutely no indication” whether Ney will heed the call to resign.

Under congressional rules, Ney must refrain from voting after pleading guilty next month. He is not required to resign, but the House could expel him from Congress with a two-thirds vote.