Jesse White Calls For Rep. Smith To Resign; GOP Wants Probe
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Updated 03/21/12 – 5:32 p.m.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is calling on his onetime political protégé , State Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago), to resign after his arrest for bribery.
Meantime, Republican lawmakers in Springfield are calling for the formation of a special committee to investigate Smith.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Smith won the Democratic nomination in the 10th District primary on Tuesday, despite the allegations against him.
Smith was once a deputy director at the Secretary of State’s office under White, who engineered Smith’s appointment to the Illinois House one year ago. CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports the two haven’t spoken since Smith’s arrest last week. Now, White is asking Smith to step down.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports
“I am calling on Derrick Smith to resign from his position as state representative of the 10th District,” White said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “The allegations in the charge against him convey unacceptable conduct, making it extremely difficult to represent the citizens of the district. The public would be much better served if Derrick were to step down.”
Smith could not be located for comment on Wednesday. He hasn’t spoken publicly since his arrest, nor has he indicated whether he plans to resign his seat. He also did not show up to Wednesday’s House session in Springfield. A spokesman for House Speaker Mike Madigan confirmed Smith had an excused absence, but did not elaborate why.
House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) also said Smith should resign and he and other House Republicans signed a petition to create a House Special Investigative Committee to decide whether lawmakers should take any disciplinary action against Smith.
Cross and several other Republicans have signed a petition calling on the House to create a committee made up of three Democrats and three Republicans to commence disciplinary proceedings. That committee will meet on Tuesday at 11 a.m. in Springfield.
The committee would be similar to the panel created following the arrest of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, which ultimately led to his impeachment and removal as governor.
Cross wants the panel to look into federal charges that Smith took a $7,000 cash bribe in exchange for writing a letter of support for a daycare center operator who he believed was seeking a state grant. The daycare center was fictional, however; a Smith aide who set up the bribe was working with federal investigators as part of a sting operation.
Asked why the House should act so soon after Smith’s arrest, Cross said “I think we have to be mindful of the fact that we have a, you know, a huge cloud over heads as a state, and as an institution in the General Assembly.”
Wednesday afternoon, CBS 2 visited a West Side liquor store that, records indicate, donated $7,000 to Smith’s campaign, but a reporter and camera crew were barred from the store.
Top Illinois Democrats supported Smith’s bid for re-election, to help keep Tom Swiss, the former director of the Cook County Republican Party, from winning the Democratic nomination. Swiss ran against Smith in the Democratic primary, but Smith won handily, taking more than 75 percent of the vote.
Better Government Association Executive Director Andy Shaw said Smith’s election win was disappointing.
“That’s terribly discouraging, not just because the voters gave him an overwhelming victory, but because so many well-respected politicians – including Congressman Danny Davis – actually endorsed him and encouraged people to vote for him for a simple reason – he is the Democrat,” Shaw said.
According to Shaw, Smith’s election win shows Illinois politics is in the gutter.
Cross said Democrats probably don’t want Smith on the House floor now, either, after his arrest.
“I can’t imagine if they have any concern about their reputation, and their integrity, and the integrity of this institution; that they believe he should continue to serve in the General Assembly,” Cross said. “I think he’d do us all a service, and do us a favor, if he would step down.”
If Smith does step down, Democratic leaders would choose his replacement on the November ballot.