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New ethics complaint targets Rep. Hart

Yet another ethics complaint has been filed against Idaho Rep. Phil Hart, this one by the write-in candidate who unsuccessfully ran against him in November. Hayden businessman Howard Griffiths, who garnered 25 percent of the vote for his write-in bid, sent in an ethics complaint even though officials say only House members can file those; earlier, another North Idaho resident, Larry Spencer, did the same, filing an ethics complaint against another North Idaho representative who had filed his own complaint against Hart.

Griffiths' complaint focuses on Hart's participation in a meeting between local judges and North Idaho lawmakers, at a time when he had his own tax appeal pending before one of the judges making the presentations. Hart's appeal of an order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest was rejected by 1st District Judge John Mitchell on Dec. 8; Hart filed a motion for reconsideration two weeks later and has a hearing before Mitchell scheduled for March.

Griffiths said it was unethical for Hart to go hear the judge's requests for funding and other consideration from the Legislature when he had his own matter before the same judge. “Here's Hart in the front row looking right at 'em,” Griffiths said. “The whole thing is, it's mind-boggling.”

House Speaker Lawerence Denney said he received Griffiths' complaint and forwarded it to House Ethics Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, who plans to convene a meeting of the Ethics Committee next week. “I've got a perfectly good ethics committee - they might just as well be busy,” Denney said. As for Hart's participation in the meeting with the judges, Denney said, “I don't think it's inappropriate, but let's let the ethics committee look. I suspect that if they think there's probable cause, that there will be a complaint brought by a legislator.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
  


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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