AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The first session of the Maine Senate’s Conduct and Ethics Committee in its 27-year existence got off to a controversial start Thursday.

Republican Sen. Ron Collins of Wells, and Republican Senate Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing of Newport, have been accused of misuse of state funds by two Democrats, Rumford Senator John Patrick and Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond of Portland.

Since the panel has never met, the first hour of the meeting was mostly to structure how the committee would do its business.

By the end of the first hour, tensions mounted.

Maine Senate President Michael Thibodeau was frustrated that neither Patrick nor Alfond was present at the meeting. He said the accused have a right to know if the people are honorable or not before the election.

Thibodeau said, 'in politics, we have mastered the art of personal destruction.'

Committee member Sen Roger Katz says he's stunned Patrick was not present. He said the absences are totally unacceptable

'I don't see anyone here who is going to present evidence or answer questions about any wrongdoing,' said Senator Katz.

The committee entered recess at approximately 10 AM and is expected to resume shortly.

NEWS CENTER will update this story throughout the day.