Posts tagged: House Ethics Committee
In an Idaho Statesman editorial this morning, Kevin Richert breaks down the unanimous move by the Idaho House of Representatives to change the way it handles ethics complaints. Among the most troubling aspects of the new rules that are now in effect is this one: “An ethics complaint is now considered confidential, at least at first. A committee will consider sealed complaints in a closed session. If the committee finds probable cause, the complaint becomes public record. The justification, predictably enough, is to protect lawmakers from baseless smears. But this comes at an unacceptable price.” More here.
Question: After watching the House Ethics Committee's dog-and-pony show in (mis)handling the ethics complaints against Rep. Phil Hart, do you trust that House leadership will do a better job in the future with such complaints, now that they can keep things secret?
HR 2, the measure to amend the House ethics rules, has passed the House on a unanimous, 70-0 vote, after not only House Speaker Lawerence Denney and House Minority Leader John Rusche debated in favor of it, but so did Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, (pictured) the subject of three ethics complaints this year. “I have a few things in this bill that I really like,” Hart told the House. “One is that the phrase 'legislative duties' appears four times.” He said, “The due process process is better spelled out. It was already there, but it was difficult to ferret out. I think there are some things that we were unclear about that are now made clear, so I'm going to support the bill”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: What do you make of House Speaker Lawerence Denney and Rep. Phil Hart speaking up to support changes to the House ethics rules — and 70-0 vote from full House?
“It's no secret that I've had a lot of media attention lately because of some of the circumstances involving my life. It's very complicated. … I'm sure most of you have at least some knowledge of what those are. I want to say that if I could go back 15 years and make some different choices, I would absolutely do that. I think I've learned through the school of hard knocks that I picked a pretty hard path to hoe.” Hart said that lately, in his “political activism … a few things snowballed. And since then I've been trying to wrap that up. I've even learned in the last few years that if I'd made a few less aggressive choices, and taken maybe a more simpler path … I think I would have … a lot of my more present circumstances more wrapped up than I have right now”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: I'm not a fan of Phil Hart and doubt that I'll ever be. But I'm satisfied with Hart's apology. Are you?
Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, moved that no further action be taken against Rep. Phil Hart by the House Ethics Committee, and the complaints are now considered resolved by the committee. “I believe what we've observed here today on Rep. Hart has just been a huge concession on Rep. Hart's side,” he said. “Looking at all the things that have happened in the last two days, I believe that there has been a great deal of resolution.” Rep. Dell Raybould seconded the motion, saying it's in recognition that Hart has now voluntarily withdrawn as vice chairman of the House transportation committee. The motion then passed unanimously/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. (Photo/Betsy Russell: Phil Hart, left, and Vito Barbieri, after House Ethics Committee hearing)
Question: Is this a fair exchange: House Ethics Committee dropping complaint against Hart in exchange for his willingness to give up vice chairmanship of Transportation Committee?
Idaho's House Ethics Committee met behind closed doors for an hour and a half today, but reached no decisions and took no action. Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, the committee chairman, said much of the time was spent going over materials the committee had requested from the Idaho Attorney General's office in regard to a complaint filed by Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, against Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, charging that Hart has violated his oath of office. There was also brief discussion of two citizen complaints that have been submitted to the committee, one from North Idaho political activist and Hart supporter Larry Spencer against Anderson, and one from Hayden businessman and former Hart write-in election challenger Howard Griffiths against Hart/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
The Ethics process in any legislative body serves best when it investigates legitimate wrongdoing as happened during the Jack Noble case when Noble introduced a bill to benefit his own convenience store. What’s going on in the Idaho legislature with Phil Hart is nothing more than a mockery of the process. As happened with Sarah Palin in Alaska, spiteful folks are trying to drive a conservative from office through spurious ethics complaints. The legislature is now investigating a 14 year old case of illegal timber cutting that happened 8 years before Hart was elected to the State legislature. Mind you the total cost of timber that Hart took was $2,450, which he’s already paid despite the fine not being enforcable by the State of Idaho/Adam’s Blog. More here.
Question: Do you agree with Idaho Conservative Blogger that the House Ethics Committee hearing on Rep. Phil Hart is a mockery of justice?
Dan of the Community: What strikes me is that as an elected official for more than 20 years I cannot even remotely imagine the circumstance where I or just about any other local elected official I have ever served with would not be willing to be present in person at this kind of a hearing, let alone not even being willing to speak for yourself over a telephone but having to have an attorney speak for you. What kind of accountability and transparency to the public is that? I find it especially ironic in that the attorney is the same one that had me on the stand for almost 8 hours over two days in the Cd’A election contest. I answered for myself and in person. I answered every single question firsthand to the best of my ability and didn’t stop until he finally ran out of questions.
Question: Did you find it strange that Rep. Phil Hart didn’t attend the House Ethics Committee hearing to defend himself Monday, relying on attorney Starr Kelso instead?
Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, says his conversation with Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, at the Legislature’s organizational session wasn’t confrontational. “I did approach him and I did say, ‘Eric, if you need to get together or if you see a need for us to get together and talk, I want you to know that I’m open to doing that and available,’” Hart told Eye on Boise. “And that was the first thing I said to him.” He said, “We talked for a little while. I do remember that that’s the way I initiated the conversation. It was not confrontational and it didn’t go on for too long. I did not tell him he’s being watched”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Update: Ethics committee backs full inquiry on Hart/Betsy Russell, SR
Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said there are three points in the ethics complaint: Theft of logs from state endowment lands, claiming that state and federal income taxes are unconstitutional, and personally benefiting from silver legislation. “We dealt in our last meetings about these items having to do with taxes,” Loertscher said. “We have disposed of those.” Rep. Bill Killen, D-Boise, said, however, that he’s “an opportunity to revisit the law” since then. Killen, an attorney, said, he discovered a section of law that “makes it a misdemeanor, makes it a crime to wilfully fail to pay your taxes”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Idaho Reporter is providing live coverage via Twitter of the House Ethics Committee hearing on Rep. Eric Anderson’s at 10 o”clock today:
Rep. Eric Anderson (pictured), R-Priest Lake, who filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, that’s the topic of a House Ethics Committee hearing later this morning, says Hart confronted him over it during last week’s organization session of the Legislature, and Anderson subsequently was punished in his committee assignments, losing the vice-chairmanship of the House State Affairs Committee and being denied a third committee assignment he’d requested, on the judiciary committee. ,,, He said Hart told him “that he’s been cleared of all these things, it’s ridiculous that I’m doing it, and no one is that pure.” He responded, he said, by asking about Hart allies who’ve been looking into Anderson’s record with a state milfoil fund and checking into his service on a local utility board. “He says, ‘There’s people watching you all over,’” Anderson said/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: What do you make of this revelation by Rep. Eric Anderson that Rep. Phil Hart & his allies are “watching” him as as result of his ethics complaint against Hart?
House Speaker Lawerence Denney says he’s appointed an ethics committee to look into a complaint filed by Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, about the conduct of Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, including Hart’s 1996 theft of timber from school endowment land for use in building his home; his continuing problems with past-due state and federal income taxes; and his citing of legislative privilege to win delays in his tax cases. Denney said the panel will be the same as the one that investigated an earlier complaint against Hart from House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, with one exception; Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, has retired; his slot will be filled by Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: What result do you expect from basically the same Ethics Committee that investigated Hart earlier this year?
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. walks out of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct’s adjudicatory hearing into his alleged ethics violations, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, as the committee went into executive session to consider allowing Rangel time to retain an attorney. Today, Rangel was found to have violated House Ethics rules in 12 of the 13 counts against him. New York Times report here. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Since the accusations were first raised two years ago, Mr. Rangel has acknowledged book-keeping errors in his financial disclosure forms and has said that his failure to pay more than $60,000 in taxes on rental income from a Dominican beach house was an oversight caused, in part, by his inability to speak Spanish/New York Times. More here.
Question: Is it possible that the congressional House Ethics Committee has more scruples re: congressmen who owe back taxes than the Idaho House Ethics Committee has with one particular North Idaho legislator?
(State Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest River), who filed the second ethics complaint after news of Hart’s 1996 timber theft surfaced, left the tour early and was back home Tuesday morning. “This has been really hard on me and the family,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of calls. They’ve been very supportive from the general public, but I would say less supportive by some,” including some other lawmakers. Anderson said people in his district feel strongly that Hart’s actions, both on his tax fights and the timber theft, were wrong. “It’s obvious to most in my home of Priest Lake that these are serious things that he’s been involved in,” he said/Betsy Russell, SR. More here.
Question: Why do you suppose that Anderson in District 1 has spoken out against Hart, when not one of the 12 legislators who represent Kootenai County has?
Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, who served as vice-chair of the House Ethics Committee that voted unanimously in September to recommend that Rep. Phil Hart be removed from the House tax committee, had this response to Speaker Lawerence Denney’s announcement today of Hart’s removal from the panel: “I think he should’ve done it right away. Why did he wait so long? … I think he sent a message that it probably wasn’t as important as maybe those of us who are on the committee thought it was”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Do you agree with Jaquet that House Speaker Lawerence Denney should have acted on the House Ethics Committee recommendation to remove Hart from Rev & Tax committee immediately?
House Speaker Lawerence Denney got off the GOP bus tour at the Golden Spike in Oct. 22 to visit his new son’s family including his new grandchild in Rathdrum. Denney is returning to North Idaho this weekend to take part in the annual chamber of commerce tour. While here, he is likely to have discussion with legislators re: what to do with the House Ethics Committee recommendation that he boot Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, from the Revenue & Taxation Committee, as a result of Hart’s tax problems with the IRS & Idaho Tax Commission. Complicating matters further, Denney now has to deal with a complaint filed by Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest River, that seeks an ethics hearing on Hart’s taking of timber to help build his house from state endowment land without paying for it.
Question: Do you think Anderson endeared himself to GOP House leadership by filing that ethics complaint against Hart late this week?
Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney says he’s made a decision on the unanimous recommendation from a special House Ethics Committee to remove Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, from the House Revenue & Taxation Committee, but he’s not yet ready to announce the decision because he wants to talk with Hart first. With the upcoming North Idaho legislative tour, which starts Sunday, Denney said, “I think we’ll have an opportunity.” Once that occurs, he said, he’ll issue a press release/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise.
Question: Any guesses re: Denney’s decision?
Remember when Rep. Phil Hart’s attorney, Starr Kelso, issued a statement last week charging that the House Ethics Committee’s action against Hart, through its unanimous vote to recommend his removal from the House Revenue & Taxation Committee while he presses his own personal fight against back state income taxes, had “no basis in law or procedure and exceeds the Committee’s authority”? Turns out those claims aren’t going anywhere. Here’s why: “There is no judicial review of this,” said Brian Kane, the deputy attorney general assigned to the Ethics Committee, who attended all its meetings and advised members throughout the process/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Will Rep. Phil Hart and attorney Starr Kelso appeal any way?
Idaho Rep. Phil Hart’s attorney, Starr Kelso, has sent out a defiant response to today’s House Ethics Committee decision on Hart’s behalf, arguing that the panel’s decision “has no basis in law or procedure and exceeds the committee’s authority.” That’s not what the Idaho Attorney General’s office advised the ethics committee. You can read Kelso’s statement here; headed, “Phil Hart’s Response to the Idaho Ethics Committee Rulings,” declares, “Since January 2005 Mr. Hart has paid over $120,000 in txes. Mr. Hart believes that when the law is applied to the facts it will be determined that he has overpaid his income taxes”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Is it possible that Hart is going to overplay his hand and incur the anger of House Republican leaders by his unwillingness to be gracious in the face of a unanimous recommendation that he be stripped of his Rev & Tax post?