Ethics Panel Finds 'Probable Cause' Against Ford - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

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Ethics Panel Finds 'Probable Cause' Against Ford

(Story created: 3/9/05)

New information on the Senate ethics investigation involving powerful state Sen. John Ford. Now, a group of senators -- acting as a grand jury -- has decided Ford should face a formal ethics committee hearing.

The report, from an ethics subcommittee, does find probable cause to take the ethics investigation to the next level.

"Senator, do you have any comment on the ethics report?" NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter Phil Williams asked Ford.

"Not to you," he responded.

That exchange came not long after Ford was handed the report during the afternoon Senate session.

It was a report that brought mixed news.

On the residency question -- whether Ford lives in his district -- the ethics panel found no probable cause to proceed.  They say Tennessee's residency laws are just too vague.

On his use of campaign funds for a daughter's wedding and other personal expenses, again no probable cause. They say it will first be up to the state's election finance regulators to decide if the law was broken.

But they did find probable cause to believe that he failed to disclose income with a company with ties to TennCare. 

It was money reported on his income tax returns, but not on financial disclosures that must be filed with the Senate.

"Obviously there [was] a discrepancy from one form to the other," said Senate Ethics Committee chairman Ron Ramsey. "So it will be up to us not only as a committee but also as a Senate to define how serious it is."

But Ford told reporters, "They haven't come back with anything but one omission that will be cleared up next week, and I will be cleared -- one omission."

The full ethics committee will meet next week to adopt the subcommittee's report.

Ford would then have 20 days to respond.

At that point, the ethics committee would hold a full hearing and make a recommendation to the full Senate.

Among the possible options: doing nothing, reprimanding Ford, or expelling him from the Senate.

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