The Senate Select Committee on Ethics yesterday said it found no evidence linking Sen. Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass.) "personally" to the altering or withholding of documents from investigators in the committee's four-month probe of Brooke's financial affairs.
But the committee, in abrief statement issued after the conclusion of 1 1/2 days of hearings on the Brooke investigation, left open questions raised by its former chief counsel about whether Brooke's "representatives" altered, delayed and withheld documents critical to the investigation.
Brooke, who is locked in a tight reelection race, said he was pleased with the outcome of the hearings. He told reporters he felt the committee cleared him, his staff and attorneys of any part in the document-altering charge and that the matter was closed.
A knowledgeable source told The Washington Post yesterday, however, that the committee's statement and not close off additional investigation into the allegations of document-tampering and delay.
"The whole question of the involvement of Brooke and his representatives is still open," said the source, who asked nto to be identified. "All the committee said was they found no evidence linking Brooke personally with the allegations. Brooke's representatives were purposely left out of the statement, and anybody listening to the statement could infer the committee is going to be interested in the relationship between the senator and his attorneys."
The committee hearings were called at Brooke's request after the resignation Oct. 12 or Richard J.Wertheimer, the former chief counsel for the Brooke probe. Brooke demanded the hearings in a speech from the Senate floor after Wertheimer said the senator's representatives were responsible for altering and holding back documents.
The Senate investigation into Brooke's finances stems from his bitter divorce this year from his former wife, Remigia. She and his daughters released some of his financial records earlier this year in a move that touched off a series of stories in various newspapers The committee decided to undertake its probe in response to those stories. One other senator, Herman E. Talmadge (D-Ga.), is also under investigation by the committee for alleged financial wrongdoing.
During the hearings Wertheimer produced a 54-page charge to back up his allegations. Brooke and his attorneys protested vehemently Tuesday when the committee allowed the charge to be distributed to the news media at the hearing.
In his statement Wertheimer said Brooke's check stubs and accounting ledger had been altered at least six times in a manner that supported the senator's version of his financial dealings. The former chief counsel also said Brooke's attorneys withheld important records that would have undermined Brooke's case.
Both Brooke and his attorneys denied the allegations. In an 18-page reply Brooke read to the committee yesterday he took issue with Wertheimer's allegations point-by-point. He said many of the documents referred to by Wertheimer were, eventually turned over to the committee and that the only document alteration during the committee's probe involved correction of a "clerical error."
Brooke, who was obviously shaken by Wertheimer's statement Tuesday, went on the offensive in delivering his rebutal yesterday. In it he charged the former committee counsel with "shocking unprofessional conduct" and "callous" disregard of his own or the committee's reputation.
Wertheimer, Brooke said, had failed to confirm his allegations with either the committee's document filse or with Brooke's attorneys.
"You don't take the worst evidence when you can get the best evidence," he said.
In his own rebutal yesterday Wertheimer said he had attempted unsuccessfully to get information from Brooke's attorneys right up to the time of his resignation. He said committee of his resignation. He said committee rules prevented him from consulting about evidence with the subject of the panel's probe.
Wertheimer's allegations obviously split the Senate ethics panel. Committee Chairman Sen. Adlai E. Stevenson (D-Ill.) openly skirmished with Brooke and his attorneys during the testimony while the three other panel members in attendance - Sen. Charles Mc C. Mathias Jr. (R-Md), Sen. Harrison H. Schmitt (R-N. M.) and Sen. Robert B. Morgan (D-N.C.) - sided with Brooke over Wertheimer before the testimony ended.
In their final statement, however, the four ignored Brooke's plea for a roll-call vote on the validity of the former counsel's allegations. "The committee has not completed it final reviews," they said in the statement, "and it has made no findings with regard to the facts."