Testimony omission spurs Burris criticism

Senator Roland Burris, D-Ill. speaks during a press conference in Chicago, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009. Burris fielded questions about a major omission from the testimony he made in January to a state House committee investigating former Gov. Rod Blagojevichs impeachment. (AP Photo/David Banks)

AP

Senator Roland Burris, D-Ill. speaks during a press conference in Chicago, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009. Burris fielded questions about a major omission from the testimony he made in January to a state House committee investigating former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment. (AP Photo/David Banks)

By Rupa Shenoy

CHICAGO – Just as Illinois was moving past the agony and embarrassment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s ousting, the fellow Democrat whom Blagojevich appointed to the U.S. Senate was hearing calls for his own resignation Sunday amid allegations he lied to legislators.

Freshman Sen. Roland Burris released an affidavit on Saturday that contradicts his statements last month to a House committee investigating Blagojevich’s impeachment.

“I can’t believe anything that comes out of Mr. Burris at this point,” Rep. Jim Durkin, the impeachment committee’s ranking Republican, said at a news conference Sunday. “I think it would be in the best interest of the state if he resigned because I don’t think the state can stand this anymore.”

But an adamant and sometimes emotional Burris told reporters in Chicago later Sunday that he hadn’t done anything wrong and never misled anyone.

“I’ve always conducted myself with honor and integrity,” he said. “At no time did I ever make any inconsistent statement.”

Gov. Pat Quinn, who advanced to the governor’s mansion after Blagojevich was ousted over corruption allegations last month, also called on Burris to explain the contradiction.

“My opinion is that he owes the people of Illinois a complete explanation,” Quinn said, according to spokesman Bob Reed.

Durkin and House Republican Leader Tom Cross also want an investigation of Burris for possible perjury.

It’s not clear what action state legislators could now take against Burris, said Dawn Clark Netsch, a Northwestern University law professor and former Illinois Comptroller.

“I’m not aware that anything quite like this has happened in any state before,” she said.

Based on federal law, the state Senate could argue that Burris was a temporary appointment, then pass a bill calling for a special election to name a permanent senator, Netsch said.