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Squabbling within ethics committee

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by Mindy Aguon

There was plenty of confusion and debate during today's legislative Ethics Committee.  Members of the committee are still trying to iron out a conflict of interest cited by Majority Legal Counsel Therese Terlaje.  But it's apparent there's dissension in the ranks.

There was plenty of debate as the Ethics Committee attempted to resolve the issue of who would represent them as they attempt to promulgate their rules and regulations.  Terlaje declined to represent the committee, citing a possible future conflict of interest, saying the establishment of the rules could favor one side or another and could also impact future ethics complaints that come before the committee.

While senators Espaldon, Palacios and Frank Blas, Jr. do not feel there's a conflict with Terlaje representing them to establish the rules, senators Guthertz and Tina Muna-Barnes wanted to get more clarification on the issue.  "The letter should not be debated on," Muna-Barnes said.  "That's not our job."

While Vice-Speaker B.J. Cruz, who resigned his post on the panel has been asked to return, Blas made it clear that depending on whether the committee accepted Terlaje's reasoning for removing herself, he too may have to step down.

"It's no secret on my stance on an individual who is subject to an ethics complaint and if that is an accepted reason why the legal counsel is going to be conflicted out , then the question has to be asked, should I serve on this committee then," said Blas.

After some more debate, the committee decided to recess and get some clarification on the issue before they reconvene on Tuesday afternoon at noon.

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