It's not too often that Pedro Colon embarrasses himself, but two weeks ago, he did just that. On Friday, April 16th, Wisconsin Democrats in the state legislature refused to expel Representative Jeff Wood, an Independent from Chippewa Falls, who was given three OWIs within a 10 month span of time. And Pedro Colon's vote to keep Wood in the State Assembly along with his prior statement about Representative Nass, certainly constitutes an embarrassment to his constituents.
Before I get into Pedro Colon's recent behavior, we need a little background on Representative Wood. Of all three of his arrests, Wood's worst offense occurred in December of 2008. On December 15th, Jeff Wood was jailed for driving drunk, running over a street sign, urinating in public, and for possession of Marijuana.
The last incident Wood had with the law was in October 21st, 2009 when he was arrested for an OWI and bail jumping. A concerned citizen in Tomah called the Police Department fearful that Wood's reckless driving was going to kill someone. The woman said that Wood was swerving in and out of lanes nearly striking other vehicles. It ended when Wood fell asleep at the wheel in the middle of an intersection.
After three OWI arrests, Wisconsin Democrats had an opportunity to show the state that they were serious about drunk driving. After all, the Wisconsin Legislature had just passed a law only three months ago that increased fines, lengthened jail time, and stiffened penalties for driving under the influence. But Democrats chose to censure Representative Wood rather than expelling him, and for what reason?
In July of 2008, Representative Wood left the Republican party and became an Independent. Soon after, he voted with Democrats on nearly all budgetary issues. Interestingly, the Democrat party didn't place an opponent to run against Wood for reelection, which suggests that he had struck a backdoor deal that traded votes for protection. And protection he received.
By the time of Wood's second arrest, Wisconsin Republicans had introduced a resolution to expel him from the State Assembly. Democrats protected him stating his expulsion would set a slippery slope of passing judgment on the personal conduct of lawmakers. Republicans retorted that drunk driving is not personal conduct, but rather a public offense that's dangerous to our citizens, both young and old.
After Wood's third arrest, Democrats had to submit to an agreement to investigate his behavior. When the investigation had finished, Democrats stood united behind him and refused to expel Wood.
Two weeks ago, state Democrats pulled an underhanded maneuver to protect Jeff Wood by forcing an early vote on his expulsion - a vote that wasn't scheduled to occur until the following Tuesday. Due to disagreeable circumstances, Representative Stephen Nass, a Republican from Whitewater who spearheaded the original resolution to expel Wood from the State Assembly, was not in attendance that day. Nass' mother had passed earlier in the week, and he was preparing her funeral.
Knowing that Nass would not be available, Wood forced the vote by making a motion just before the session period had ended. This kept both parties busy and extended their work session until 4 am. When Republicans criticized Democrats for forcing the vote without Representative Nass, Pedro Colon responded from the Assembly floor, "If he wants to prosecute, he can show up."
This would have required Nass to be at the State Legislature a mere 7 hours before his mother's funeral. Stunned by Colon's remarks, he issued a response stating, "Rep. Colon's statement is unforgivable and lacks any elements of human decency." Colon quickly offered a half-hearted apology saying,
"I am very sorry that my statements were misconstrued on the floor of the Assembly and I certainly did not intend to criticize Representative Nass for missing session last night due to the unfortunate death of his mother"
But Colon's statement was not misconstrued. Colon brushed aside the fact that Nass had to bury his mother on the same day that Wood and his Democrat allies had compelled the vote. An editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said it right when they described Colon's statement as "crass and disrespectful" .
Colon also voted against expelling Wood from the State Assembly - a man who had five OWI violations on his record, including three OWI arrests during his term as a legislator. On that night in December alone, Wood broke four laws while lying to the police. And the worst part is that Wood is not contrite about his behavior.
When offering an apology back in December of 2008, he said,
"There is no excuse for my actions, and I accept full responsibility. This is not typical behavior for me, but unfortunately, I drank too much and exercised very poor judgment."
However, Wood ended up in jail two more times for the same charge. Wood also said he would accept full responsibility for his actions, but four months later, he plead not guilty while his lawyer fought to have the two bags of marijuana in his car tossed out on a technicality. How is this accepting full responsibility? Wood also refuses to step down from his position arguing that he can do his job effectively and that his string of offenses are unrelated to his job as a legislator. But now he's in jail for his OWI conviction, so how is this unrelated to his job as a legislator?
Perhaps Pedro Colon can explain to his constituents why he voted against expelling a man with five OWI violations. Maybe all it takes is for Wood to actually kill some child while driving drunk before Colon sees the gravity of the situation.