Arizona lawmaker who has rarely gone to Capitol may face complaint over absences

Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe

By Mary Jo Pitzl | Arizona Republic

State Sen. T.J. Shope said Monday he will file an ethics complaint against Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, for abandonment of his office.

Shope, R-Coolidge, made his announcement as the Senate was consumed with a debate over whether to launch an ethics probe into Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, or expel her. Rogers was criticized by her colleagues for a social media post following the shooting rampage in Buffalo, New York, that seemed to suggest the mass killing was the work of federal agents.

Shope said his decision wasn’t in retaliation for Democrats’ attempt to expel Rogers, but said the debate did open up the topic of Mendez’s prolonged absence from the Senate. Mendez has had an excused absence since the January start of the legislative session and has only been at the Capitol a few times to vote on legislation.

“Today, I had an opportunity and a forum with ethics issues on the floor,” Shope said, adding that the GOP caucus has talked about Mendez’s absence for some time.

Mendez has presented Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, with a doctor’s note, saying it is unsafe for him to work at the Senate due to COVID-19 concerns. Fann has excused his absence.

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Late Monday, Mendez wasn’t buying Shope’s explanation, saying the senator is looking for a distraction from the fact that people such as Rogers are the dominant voice of the Republican Party.

“Setting aside how patently ridiculous it is to compare taking paternity leave with employing the same type of rhetoric that incited the racist murder of 10 innocent people, he’s clearly trying to deflect from the fact that he’s afraid to do his responsibility and remove Sen. Rogers from public office,” Mendez wrote in a statement. He was not at the Capitol on Monday.

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