The state Senate will vote Friday to suspend indicted Sen. Leland Yee if he refuses to voluntarily resign, said Sen. Jerry Hill who chairs the Democratic Caucus.
“His future is very limited in the Senate,” said Hill, D-San Mateo. “He’s not guilty yet but the indictment reflects on issues that are painful to read like gunrunning and we just feel it warrants this type of action. He should never step foot on the Senate floor again.”
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, asked Yee to simply “leave” and Hill said they will simultaneously vote to suspend him along with Sen. Ron Calderon and Sen. Rod Wright who are both fighting legal battles.
“There is a very high level of upset and disappointment in these members and we need to make it clear their actions in no way reflect on the stature or reputation of the Senate,” Hill said.
On the other side of the Legislature, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, said he was “shocked and saddened” by the news.
“I was unaware of the ongoing investigation. I am withholding judgment on Senator Yee’s case and until more facts are known and the legal process unfolds,” Mullin said in a prepared statement.
News of the early morning raids in San Mateo County and Yee’s apprehension sent San Mateo County buzzing but publicly those who know and work with him locally were pretty tightlipped.
Yee’s office, known for sending out near-daily press releases about the senator’s accomplishments and events, was silent — in part, no doubt, to the federal raid of it Wednesday while Yee himself was arrested. His press secretary did not respond to queries which is pretty much the same reaction of other longtime Yee associates.
Dave Pine, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, called Yee’s situation “something you only expect to see in a made-for-TV movie.”
Board Vice President Carole Groom said she was “shocked” when she and several others at a Police Activities League function Wednesday morning received the same news alert on their phones simultaneously. Groom called the situation a “tragedy” whether true or not but said frankly “he was never a big representative for San Mateo County.”
Yee represents District Eight which is primarily San Francisco but does include a northern swath of San Mateo County. Redistricting also moved Yee’s district out of the area but his seat remains until the end of the year. Hill’s district includes most of San Mateo County and state Sen. Mark Leno represents San Francisco.
Yee, who is currently a candidate for California secretary of state, was first elected to the San Francisco Board of Education in 1988 and served stints as a San Francisco supervisor, two terms as assemblyman before winning a hotly contest three-way race with Mike Nevin and Lou Papan for Jackie Speier’s vacated Senate seat in 2006. In 2010, his run for San Francisco mayor finished poorly.
Yee has made a name for himself with legislation battling lifetime no-parole sentences and solitary confinement for juveniles and governmental transparency. He also proposed firearms legislation concerning trigger locks and assault weapons.
In 2008, he butted heads with local prosecutors and former senator Quentin Kopp, whose seat Yee holds, over a bill protecting domestic violence victims who do not want to testify against their accused abuser from contempt charges and jail time.
Kopp said he is “not surprised at all” by Yee’s arrest because, in part, of other brushes with the law which include a 2000 arrest in Hawaii on suspicion of shoplifting suntan oil and 1999 questioning twice by San Francisco police who suspected he was looking for prostitutes. Kopp said he also believes Yee was suspected of submitted false invoices to Santa Clara County as a contract employee and played loose with San Francisco Board of Supervisors residency requirements. Yee was never charged in any of the cases.
“I haven’t had anything good to say about him since before he was a supervisor with his shoplifting and the hooker,” Kopp said.
While not taken aback by the arrest, Kopp said he was surprised by the scope of the allegations and the number of people involved.
Kopp predicts Yee will take a leave of absence like Calderon which allows him to continue collecting a paycheck.
“That is an insult to taxpayers,” Kopp said, adding that the Yee allegations are “the most appalling” affront to voters and taxpayers in his experience.
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