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Dems file ethics complaint against Sen. Pearce, ask removal from Resources chairmanship

Idaho's Senate minority leadership has filed an ethics complaint against Senate Resources Chairman Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, alleging that he voted 22 times in committee or on the Senate floor on oil and gas issues before finally disclosing, before the Senate's final vote on HB 464, that he had a conflict of interest in that he had oil and gas leases on his land in Payette County. Senate ethics rules permit senators to vote despite a conflict, after having disclosed it. Pearce told Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker today that he had simply not thought about the potential conflict until the final vote, and had held the leases since the 1980s. “I vote on an animal cruelty bill and I have animals,” he told Barker. “I vote on water rights and I’ve got water rights.” You can read Barker's full post here.

The Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Edgar Malepeai, Assistant Minority Leader Les Bock and Minority Caucus Chair Michelle Stennett asked Hill to launch an ethics investigation, and requested that, while that's pending, Pearce be immediately removed as Senate Resources chairman and recuse himself from voting on "any matters pertaining to the oil and gas industry."

The Democrats, in their complaint, wrote of Pearce's disclosure yesterday, "This revelation was shocking to colleagues who had witnessed Senator Pearce repeatedly vote on issues relating to oil and gas in the Senate Resources and Environment Committee as Chairman, and on the floor of the Senate without revealing his conflict of interest as required by Senate Rule 39H."

Senate Rule 39H says, "Right to Vote. -- (H) A Senator has the right to vote upon all questions before the Senate and to participate in the business of the Senate and its committees and, in so doing, the Senator is presumed to act in good faith and in the public interest. If a Senator has a conflict of interest under applicable law, such conflict must be disclosed to the presiding officer in writing or to the body. Upon disclosure of any such conflict, the Senator may vote upon any question or issue to which the conflict relates, unless the Senator requests to be excused. "

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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