A Senate ethics panel cleared Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) of any legal wrongdoing, after months of questions swirling around his appointment to the Senate seat President Obama left vacant upon taking office.
The panel, however, strong criticized Burris for providing "incorrect, inconsistent, misleading or incomplete information to the public and the Senate. It calls a number of his actions "inappropriate."
Burris came under fire after Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich -- who was already accused of trying to sell Mr. Obama's former Senate seat -- appointed Burris to the position. Burris was not initially under investigation for any connection to Blagojevich's alleged scheme, but he later admitted he tried to raise money for the governor while seeking the Senate seat.
In a "public letter of qualified admonition (PDF)," the six-person Senate Ethics Committee found that Burris committed no "actionable violations of the law."
Still, the panel wrote in its letter, "Senators must meet a much higher standard of conduct."
The panel told Burris in its letter that it concluded in its investigation that:
• "Your sworn affidavit and sworn testimony before the Illinois House of Representatives were incomplete, inconsistent and misleading."
• "Your shifting explanations about your sworn statements appear less than candid."
• "Your November 13, 2008 phone call with Robert Blagojevich, while not rising to the level of an explicit quid pro quo, was inappropriate."
Burris released a positive statement responding to the panel's conclusions, as well as the investigation by the Sangamon County State's Attorney in Springfield, Illinois, which also cleared him of wrongdoing.
"I am pleased that after numerous investigations, this matter has finally come to a close," Burris said. "I thank the members of the Senate Ethics Committee for their fair and thorough review of this matter, and now look forward to continuing the important work ahead on behalf of the people of Illinois."
Sen. Dick Durbin, Burris' fellow Democratic senator from Illinois, said in a statement that Burris was expected to testify before the Illinois General Assembly "openly, honestly and completely about the nature of his relationship with the former governor, his associates and the circumstances surrounding this appointment" before being seated in the Senate.
"Since then, the accuracy and completeness of his testimony and affidavits have been called into question," Durbin said. "The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee has completed its review into this matter and found that Sen. Burris' actions have brought discredit on him and the Senate. The letter of qualified admonition from the Ethics Committee speaks for itself."