Senator Shope Requesting Ethics Investigation on Senator Mendez for Months-Long Absence From Legislature

May 16, 2022

By Corinne Murdock |

State Senator T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge) announced on Monday that he was filing an ethics complaint against Senator Juan Mendez (D-Tempe) for being absent for almost the entirety of this legislative session. Shope accused Mendez of abandoning his duties in the senate.

“I have informed the chair of the Senate Committee on Ethics that I will be filing an ethics complaint against the member from district 26 for essentially abandoning his position here in this body. I will be doing so over the next few days,” said Shope.

Shope made his announcement during a vote on whether to expel State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) from the Senate. That measure failed along party lines.

Both Mendez and his wife, State Representative Athena Salman (D-Tempe), have stayed away from the State Capitol almost entirely, save for Mendez’s visit in February and Salman’s visit in April. They’ve done so with the blessing of Republican House and Senate leadership, who furnished them with excused absences for the last five months. 

House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) explained to The Arizona Republic that he gave Salman excused absences because he was “just trying to be nice.” Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) explained that Mendez had a doctor’s note recommending against the legislator’s return to in-person work. 

The couple cited concerns about exposing their daughter to COVID-19, who was born in January. Salman requested to work remotely like the legislature had allowed during the last legislative session, but her request was denied.

Mendez and Salman argued to The Arizona Republic that they haven’t absconded from their responsibilities completely. Though they’re barred from voting remotely, the couple reported that they speak with the press and their constituents regularly as well as engage in the legislature by watching it virtually. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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