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Article posted: 3/21/2012 8:26 PM

Legislative committee to investigate accused lawmaker

By

Illinois House leaders appointed a special investigative committee Wednesday to explore discipline against a colleague charged with bribery as the governor and secretary of state called for the representative's resignation.

Five Republicans requested the probe of Rep. Derrick Smith, a Chicago Democrat, two more than necessary to trigger the appointment of the panel under House rules.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, said the committee will meet Tuesday in Springfield. But the investigative committee meets in private with secret proceedings and no transcript taken, according to House rules.

Smith was charged last week after federal authorities alleged he took a $7,000 cash bribe in exchange for his endorsement of what he thought was a daycare center's request for a state grant. The scenario was part of an undercover sting, prosecutors said.

That did not stop voters in his West Side district from giving him 77 percent of the vote in Tuesday's Democratic primary.

If the investigative panel finds that further action is warranted, a disciplinary committee would convene to consider penalties including reprimand, censure or expulsion, or to take no action. The disciplinary committee conducts action in public with House "managers" presenting the charges before the person facing them -- in this case, Smith.

Madigan, who is also state Democratic Party chairman, has not said what he thinks Smith should do. During his campaign, Madigan took credit for cleaning up corruption like that which got former Gov. Rod Blagojevich impeached, removed from office and ultimately sentenced to federal prison.

Smith did not return a message left at his Chicago office. The House convened in Springfield on Wednesday but a call to his capital office was forwarded to the Chicago line.

Smith worked for the secretary of state's office until White backed him for appointment to the House to fill a vacancy.

"The allegations in the charge against him convey unacceptable conduct, making it extremely difficult to represent the citizens of the district," said a statement White issued to the press.

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