DeLeo, Patrick and Walsh: Henriquez should resign

Matt Murphy, State House News Service
Jan. 15, 2014

Rep. Carlos Henriquez

Update (4:30 p.m.): In separate statements, Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Martin J. Walsh have both called upon Rep. Henriquez to resign. Walsh said: "A jury has convicted Rep. Henriquez and a judge has sentenced him to serve jail time. In light of this, I would encourage Rep. Henriquez to resign, in the best interests of the constituents he represents."

Following the conviction Wednesday of Rep. Carlos Henriquez on charges of assault and battery against a woman he had been dating, House Speaker Robert DeLeo urged the Dorchester Democrat to “weigh very, very heavily” the option of resigning his seat or face a House Ethics Committee investigation.

“I consider domestic assault to be very, very serious. The House considers that to be very, very serious. Having said that, based upon what has happened today in terms of a jury convicting Rep. Henriquez, I think it’s incumbent upon him to weigh the possibility of resigning immediately. If not, it’s incumbent upon me as speaker of the House to immediately refer this matter to the Ethics Committee to take action,” DeLeo told the News Service.

DeLeo and top House Democrats were huddled in a downtown hotel conference room discussing strategy for the upcoming election cycle when the conviction and sentence were handed down by a jury and Cambridge District Court Judge Michele Hogan. Henriquez was sentenced to 2.5 years in jail, with six months to be served.

As Democrats left the Omni Parker House to make their way back up Beacon Hill for a formal session at the State House, many were reluctant to discuss the conviction of their colleague knowing that DeLeo himself planned to make a statement.

Despite calls from several Republican lawmakers and the MassGOP for Henriquez to resign immediately, DeLeo chose his words carefully when discussing how the House would proceed. Asked whether he would prefer to see Henriquez resign, DeLeo said, “I think only he can decide that, but I think that would be an option that he should weigh very, very heavily.”

According a staff person, the speaker’s lawyers are looking into whether House rules allow DeLeo to unilaterally strip Henriquez of his official committee assignments. House rules permit the speaker to remove a member from his committee assignments if that member has been criminally indicted by a court. There is some question as to whether DeLeo can act because Henriquez was not formally indicted by a grand jury, the staff person said.

If the Dorchester representative does not resign his House seat, House rules include provisions that enable members to move forward with degrees of disciplinary action, including reprimand, censure, removal from a chairmanship or position of authority, or expulsion.

Such an effort would need to follow a hearing and vote of the House Ethics Committee. The committee is without a chairman since Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, its former chair, resigned to take office at City Hall.

Rep. David Nangle, a Democrat from Lowell, is the committee's vice-chairman. DeLeo said the committee could proceed without a permanent chairman, but he would expect to name a formal chairman before any hearings begin.

“For anything of this magnitude, we want a full committee in place so there can be no one who can question the actions taken by the Ethics Committee,” DeLeo said.

Unrelated to the Henriquez case, DeLeo said he has spent the past three months touring domestic violence homes and has been working with Attorney General Martha Coakley on legislation to strengthen the state’s domestic violence laws. He said a bill could be ready in two to three weeks.

“He had his day in court. A judgement was made by a jury of his peers. And now quite frankly, I think especially for the integrity of the House, which I respect greatly and consider to be of great importance, I would expect that he would resign. Should he decide not to do that, then I’m going to take immediately action to begin the process,” DeLeo said.

Democrats had mixed reactions to conviction.

"Sure, if anyone gets convicted, it’s a shame on the institution,” said Rep. Frank Smizik, a Brookline Democrat. “But that’s not something that’s common in our institution. If there’s one out of 160, it’s not common in our House. It’s very sad. I like him and he was going to be a good rep, but if he has to leave, he has to leave.”

One House Democrat, who did not want to be identified, said, "If he was not a rep, he never would have been found guilty."

Michael Deehan and Colleen Quinn contributed reporting.