March 22, 2012 in Idaho

Ethics claims against Idaho’s Sen. Pearce dismissed

By The Spokesman-Review

BOISE – A bipartisan Idaho Senate Ethics Committee has voted unanimously to dismiss an ethics complaint against Senate Resources Chairman Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth.

Pearce was accused of violating conflict of interest rules for not revealing, through multiple votes on oil and gas legislation, that he has oil and gas leases on his Payette County property. But ethics panel members said after three days of hearings, they couldn’t find evidence any rules were violated.

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene, led the move to dismiss the ethics charges. “In terms of public perception, he would’ve been well-served to disclose in committee,” Hammond said. “That would have helped the situation.” But, he said, “I have found nothing here relative to our rules that leads me to do anything but move that we dismiss the charges.”

Pearce disclosed his conflict of interest shortly before the final vote in the Senate on the most controversial of this year’s oil and gas drilling bills, HB 464, which puts the state in charge of well siting, pre-empting local authority. He didn’t disclose his lease with Snake River Oil & Gas, one of the major proponents of the bill, through hearings in his committee at which the company testified in favor of the bill, or during procedural votes in the full Senate.

Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, seconded Hammond’s motion. “With our investigation, I do not believe we can demonstrate direct pecuniary benefit to Sen. Pearce for his actions supporting the bill, HB 464,” Schmidt said. However, he said, “His actions placed Sen. Pearce’s conduct in doubt and necessitated these painful deliberations we conclude today.”

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