- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 19, 2019

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey’s legislative commission on ethics said Tuesday it will investigate charges brought by Democratic Assembly members that a Republican colleague carried out a robocall scheme that sucked up public resources.

The Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards voted to find probable cause a violation could have occurred.

Democratic Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling and Assemblywoman Joann Downey filed the complaint against Republican Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso stemming from July calls.

All three lawmakers represent towns in Monmouth County, but Houghtaling and Downey are from the 11th District, and DiMaso is from the 13th.

The Democratic lawmakers say DiMaso criticized them in the calls over their support for the governor’s $37.4 billion budget, including tax increases on wealthy residents and some businesses.

The calls showed up on caller ID as coming from the Democratic lawmakers’ office - a practice known as spoofing.

Houghtaling and Downey have said the calls required attention from their staff and thus sucked up public resources.

DiMaso has said she recorded the calls but denied any involvement in spoofing, according to a statement read during the committee’s hearing.

Tim Howes, her attorney, said they’re confident the committee will find she didn’t violate the state’s conflict of interest or ethics laws.

A violation carries a penalty of up to $10,000.

Danielle DeSisto, a spokeswoman for Assembly Democrats, declined to comment until after the investigation.

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