House Speaker Lawerence Denney said today that Rep. Eric Anderson’s removal as vice-chairman of the House State Affairs Committee - shortly after Anderson had filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Phil Hart - was merely an oversight, but also said he’d warned Anderson of “fallout” if he filed the ethics complaint. As for the vice-chairmanship, Denney said, “What’s done is done, and we’ll continue for two years as it is.” He said, “When you get those names and everything out there, things change and sometimes we miss things. … Sometimes people who should get something don’t. It’s not that we’re punishing anybody, it’s that sometimes we miss it.”
Denney said, “No one was punished, even those who ran for leadership; we didn’t punish anyone.” Rep. Bob Nonini, who unsuccessfully challenged House Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts, kept his chairmanship of the House Education Committee. But Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, who unsuccessfully challenged House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, lost his JFAC seat; Bayer said it was his choice to move to the Rev & Tax committee.
Anderson didn’t run for leadership, though he was rumored to be a candidate in the weeks before party leadership elections were held. But after he filed the ethics complaint, he lost his committee vice-chairmanship and also was denied his request for a third committee assignment, a seat on the judiciary committee. Anderson, R-Priest Lake, is a fourth-term representative; the vice chairmanship went to third-term Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa.
“You know, I don’t have a problem with him filing the ethics complaint,” Denney said. “When he came and asked me about it, I suggested that he have somebody else do it, because there could be fallout. You know, there are people in our caucus who fully support Phil Hart and there are people in our caucus who do not. So, you know, for one of our members to do that, I think it could be tough.”
Denney said, “I think Phil has every right to pursue all of his legal avenues. … In Phil’s case, we were very careful - I didn’t want to show that we were rewarding him, and I didn’t want to show that we were punishing him.” Hart, who at the recommendation of the House Ethics Committee was removed from the House Rev & Tax Committee, was simply reduced to two committee assignments instead of three; he saw no other changes. “That was his choice,” Denney said. Hart retained his vice-chairmanship of the House Transportation Committee.
Denney said he’s not concerned about Anderson’s report that Hart confronted him over the ethics complaint at the entrance to the House chambers during the Dec. 2 organizational session, and told him he was being watched. Denney said with a chuckle, “Well, you know, I think people are watching all of us.” He added of the confrontation, “You know, I think it would be hard not to do when they’re together.”