A House panel is poised to act against state Representative John P. Fresolo, Democrat of Worcester, with the possibility of disciplinary measures being taken by the full body within days, said an official briefed on the investigation.
The Ethics Committee is expected to recommend that the House move against Fresolo, the official said, though the severity of its recommendation was unknown Tuesday. Also unclear, because committee members are sworn to secrecy, are the charges against Fresolo.
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo’s office said in March that his office had reviewed allegations against an unnamed House member filed by a House employee and that DeLeo had instructed the committee to investigate. In April, the House voted to give the panel temporary subpoena authority.
The committee has been meeting quietly in the State House, holding one session Monday after a handful last week. Several members of the committee contacted for information said they were constrained by committee rules from discussing the matter, even with other lawmakers.
Fresolo, 48, did not respond to requests for comment left on his cellphone. Thomas Kiley, an attorney representing Fresolo, declined to comment.
The eight-term lawmaker has come under scrutiny in the past for ranking high on the list of members who file for per diem reimbursements, state payments that legislators are entitled to collect for commuting to and from the State House.
The committee could recommend a reprimand, a censure, or expulsion.
Neither House rules nor the state constitution lay out a mechanism for expelling a member from the chamber, House parliamentarians said. If the House chooses to reprimand or censure a member, a simple majority of those members present and voting is required. If they vote on expulsion, an absolute majority of 81 votes would be the threshold.
The last time a member of the Legislature was expelled was in 1977, when Joseph DiCarlo, then Senate majority leader, was removed from the chamber after taking bribes from the contractor building the UMass Boston campus. DiCarlo was later convicted in federal court.
Members are leery of taking such drastic action, fearful of setting precedent indicating that the will of the voters could be overturned by legislative leadership. Other Democratic lawmakers facing ethics investigations have resigned rather than endure what amounts to a trial by peers.
In 2008, the Senate voted to urge Dianne Wilkerson to resign and sent her case to its Ethics Committee. Wilkerson resigned before the panel could take action and later pleaded guilty to federal attempted extortion charges.
The same year, Senator James Marzilli resigned under pressure from colleagues as he faced a range of sexual assault charges. Marzilli later pleaded guilty to charges that he accosted four women.
In 2010, Senator Anthony Galluccio resigned after he was ordered to serve a one-year jail sentence for violating terms of his house arrest by drinking alcohol, after pleading guilty to fleeing the scene of a car accident that injured a 13-year-old.