AirTalk for March 4, 2014

Should politicians still get a paycheck while facing criminal charges?

State Senator Investigated

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

State Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, sits at his desk during the first Senate session of the new year at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, Jan. 6 2014. Calderon, whose Sacramento offices were raided by the FBI in June, had his assigned seat in the Senate chambers moved from front-and center to a far corner, next to a vacant desk. He also has been stripped of all committee assignments in the wake of an investigation for allegedly accepting nearly $90,000 from an undercover FBI agent.

Two California politicians have been placed on paid administrative leave while they wait for their next days in court. Ron Calderon, who is facing two dozen charges of bribery, fraud and money laundering charges, announced this week that he will take a leave of absence rather than resigning from the state Senate. Calderon will continue to collect his salary while he's on leave, which is expected to stretch through the end of the legislative session in August.

Last week, Roderick Wright also announced he will be taking a paid leave of absence from the Senate after being convicted by a jury Jan. 29 of eight felony counts for perjury and voter fraud. Prosecutors said Wright falsely claimed to live inside his Inglewood district while really keeping a large home in Baldwin Hills. Wright plans to appeal his convictions at his sentencing hearing on May 16 but will continue to receive a paycheck from the state, despite already being convicted.

The California constitution prevents the state Senate from withholding pay from any senator but taxpayers are upset about being forced to continue to pay the salaries.

Is there any legal recourse for taxpayers to recoup the money from politicians convicted of felonies? What power does the state government have to withhold their paychecks, particularly once a politician has been convicted of a crime? Do constituents have any power to recall the senators?

Guest: 

Jessica Levinson, professor at Loyola Law School and vice president of the LA Ethics Commission

Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies 


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