Assemblyman Steven Brooks has been arrested again, which begs an important question: Is this man going to have to hurt someone before he's expelled from the Legislature?
Brooks was arrested last month on suspicion of threatening Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, a fellow North Las Vegas Democrat. He followed that arrest with weeks of bizarre and alarming behavior that carried into last week's start of the 2013 Legislature. Police had to follow him everywhere. He demonstrated beyond any doubt that he is suffering a mental health crisis that has left him unable and unfit to represent the voters of District 17.
Lawmakers declared that Brooks wouldn't disrupt the public's business, then they wasted several days negotiating a paid leave of absence with a man who isn't capable of making binding decisions for himself, let alone his constituents. When Brooks reneged on a deal to leave Carson City last week, his fellow Assembly Democrats kicked him out of their caucus. His word worth less than nothing, Brooks then agreed to take three weeks off. A special committee was formed to investigate his conduct.
Early Sunday, Brooks was arrested on suspicion of domestic battery and obstructing a police officer. Brooks was alleged to have threatened his wife, and when Las Vegas police arrived at the scene, officers said he refused to obey their commands and fought with them, throwing a punch and attempting "to secure one of the officers weapons," according to a police statement.
Recall that when Brooks was arrested last month on suspicion of threatening Ms. Kirkpatrick, police found him with a gun and ammunition.
In response, Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said he hopes the special investigative committee can conclude its work "fairly quickly." That committee could decide to do nothing. It could issue some form of discipline. It could expel Brooks and make him the first sitting lawmaker to be booted from office.
As a criminal defendant, Brooks enjoys the presumption of innocence and due process. There can be no rush to judgment that might result in the loss of his rights and his freedom. As an elected official, however, Brooks has no right to the public's trust. The committee's function is not subject to the constitutional standards of a criminal proceeding. They're not deciding whether he goes to jail. They're deciding his fitness for office. And thanks to Brooks' Sunday arrest, the committee's work shouldn't take more than a single afternoon. He's a clear threat to public safety.
Brooks should have resigned before the start of the 2013 session. Because he won't, the Legislature should expel him, sooner rather than later. Ending the distraction of his recent conduct is less important than finding someone else to represent the voters of District 17. The longer Brooks is allowed to hold the title of assemblyman, the longer his constituents will go without a voice in Carson City.