House lawyers in OneUnited case suspended

By Larry Margasak
Associated Press / December 2, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Two House ethics committee lawyers have been suspended, possibly ending any chance that Representative Maxine Waters of California will get the ethics trial she has demanded this year.

Waters was to go on trial before eight House members on Nov. 29. The ethics committee postponed the proceeding on Nov. 19, citing the discovery of new evidence but not mentioning the suspensions.

Yesterday, Richard A. Sauber, the lawyer for the suspended attorneys, said the staff members were placed on paid leave the same day the postponement was announced. One of them, C. Morgan Kim, was the lead committee attorney in the Waters case. The other lawyer, Stacy Sovereign, also worked on the case.

The ethics committee’s chairwoman, Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, has declined to comment on the suspensions. Sauber said, “They were inexplicably put on administrative leave’’ by Lofgren.

Waters, a Democrat, is facing charges that she improperly helped Boston-based OneUnited Bank seek federal bailout funds in 2008 while her husband was a stockholder of the bank.

Waters’s husband was a former director of OneUnited, one of the nation’s largest minority-owned banks, and owned $350,000 of its stock.

In a statement, Waters said the integrity of the committee had been compromised.

“The committee should communicate the reasons for this disciplinary action. Important questions must be answered,’’ she said.

“Did the committee’s attorneys withhold exculpatory evidence?’’ she added. “Leak documents or speak to the press without authorization? Engage in partisan activity? Mislead members of Congress? Was the disciplinary action justified?’’