By James B. Kelleher
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A lawmaker from Chicago who has been indicted for bribery but has refused to resign his seat should be expelled from the Illinois Legislature, a special investigative panel recommended on Thursday.
State House Representative Derrick Smith was arrested in March and charged with accepting a $7,000 bribe in exchange for endorsing a daycare center's state grant application.
Days after he was arrested and indicted, Smith won the Democratic Party primary for re-election over token Republican opposition, in part because some Democrats hoped he would resign and be replaced on the November ballot.
But Smith refused to bow out voluntarily, and on Thursday a special investigative committee of the Illinois House voted 11-1 to recommend the expulsion.
Smith has denied the charges. His lawyer called the vote a "political decision."
"We feel as optimistic as ever about the representative being exonerated in federal court," Henderson said.
Smith did not respond to an email requesting comment.
Thursday's action clears the way for an expulsion vote by the full House, though it is unclear when that could come. Expulsion would require the votes of two-thirds of the body, which is controlled by Smith's fellow Democrats.
Jim Durkin, the Republican who chaired the House Committee on Discipline, said Smith did not help himself by failing to appear before the committee on Thursday.
Chicago and Illinois have a long reputation for political corruption. The last two former governors of the state - Republican George Ryan and Democrat Rod Blagojevich - are in jail for misdeeds.
Earlier this week, seven local Chicago officials were charged with conspiring to pay bribes in exchange for government grants. One was the former campaign manager for a Democratic state senator.
Last month two former Chicago politicians were charged with accepting kickbacks. One was a former Chicago city councilman and the other a former county commissioner.
Smith's next court date in his federal corruption case is August 16.
(Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Greg McCune and Jackie Frank)