- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rep. Maxine Waters on Tuesday called for a House investigation into the suspension of two ethics committee attorneys who were probing allegations that she improperly sought federal assistance for a bank in which her husband owned stock.

Mrs. Waters, California Democrat, filed a “privileged resolution” calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to appoint a bipartisan task force “to investigate the circumstances and cause” of the committee’s decision to suspend C. Morgan Kim, deputy chief counsel of the committee and the lead attorney in the Waters investigation, and Stacey Sovereign, who also worked on the case.

The 10-term congresswoman made the request during a speech on the House floor.

Ms. Kim and Ms. Sovereign were placed on indefinite administrative leave on Nov. 19 the same day the committee announced it was postponing Mrs. Waters‘ trial on ethics charges because of the discovery of new evidence that may have had “an effect” on the case. The trial, originally set to begin on Nov. 29, has not been rescheduled.

Mrs. Waters, who has denied any wrongdoing, has accused the committee of violating her “due process rights” by the delay and called on it to schedule the hearing before the end of the year so she can clear her name.

In her resolution, Mrs. Waters said the committee’s actions had subjected the ethics panel to “public ridicule,” had “weakened the ability of the committee to properly conduct its investigative duties,” and had “brought discredit to the House.”

Once certified, the full House has two days to vote on the resolution.

The resolution calls for the task force to report back before the end of current session of Congress and to make recommendations to restore public confidence in the ethics process including, where needed, disciplinary measures for both staff and members.

She has said on several occasions she believes the cancellation of the trial “demonstrates in no uncertain terms the weakness of their case against me.”

The committee charged Mrs. Waters with improperly trying to obtain federal bailout money for Boston-based OneUnited Bank in which her husband, Sidney Williams, owned stock. Mr. Williams had earlier been a director of the minority-owned bank.

Mrs. Waters has maintained that she has done nothing wrong and that her efforts to get bailout funds were on behalf of a number of minority owned banks — not just OneUnited — in her role as the highest ranking black woman on the House Financial Services Committee.

She has said that new evidence the committee discovered — described as an e-mail from her Chief of Staff Mikael Moore to staffers on the Financial Services committee — “does not provide any new significant information” and that it “does not reflect any action on behalf of any specific company,” according to a statement she released on Nov. 19. Mr. Moore is her grandson.

R. Blake Chisam, chief counsel and staff director for the ethics committee, did not respond to a request for comment. The committee, formally known as the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, does not normally comment on ongoing investigations.

Richard Sauber, the attorney for the suspended lawyers, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. He told reporters earlier that the two ethics committee lawyers had done nothing wrong

Mrs. Waters issued a statement last week calling on the committee to reveal the reasons for the suspensions, asking whether the committee’s attorneys withheld exculpatory evidence, leaked documents, spoke to the press without authorization, engaged in partisan activity, or mislead members of Congress.

“Was the disciplinary action justified?” she asked. “What impact does this have on my case?”