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Ethics panel discusses relevancy of timber issue

After Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said of the timber issue, “I believe that there’s some merit there, that we should look into this further,” Ethics Committee Chair Tom Loertscher R-Iona, said, “The thing we should consider is if Rep. Hart used his office as a means of not paying that obligation. That would be a violation of the ethics rules of the House.” If not, he said, that would “not seem to be a topic that is appropriate for an ethics hearing. … If he’s used his office to say, ‘You can’t touch me because I’m a legislator’ … I don’t believe that anything in the record indicates that that’s the case.”

Jaquet said she wondered whether the reason that the state Department of Lands dropped the ball on collecting its judgment against Hart was because he was a legislator. She said the panel should at least look into that question.

‘Flatly against the law’

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 had “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 willfully fail to pay your taxes.” He said, “Based on that, I think that we should proceed further down the road on this. It seems, regardless of the rationale, regardless of what personal subjective beliefs of Mr. Hart, what he’s engaged in is flatly against the law in the state of Idaho, and I think should be engaged in beyond this hearing.”

Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, noted that Hart came to the Legislature in 2004 with an outstanding judgment against him for the 1996 timber theft, which he didn’t pay.

Ethics hearing opens

Ethics Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, opened the ethics committee hearing this morning saying, “The purpose of our meeting today is to make a determination as to whether or not there is merit enough on this complaint to go further. This is not a hearing into the matter in any way.” Hart is participating by phone, but when asked if he was on the line, his attorney, Starr Kelso, answered for him.

Listen live to Hart ethics meeting

This morning’s House Ethics Committee meeting will be broadcast live on the Internet; you can listen in by going to the Legislature’s website and clicking on the link under “Announcements.”

Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, has submitted letters of support from GOP central committees in Boundary, Bonner and Benewah counties, saying he should be cleared of all ethics charges. “We know that Representative Hart received 75.2 percent of his district’s vote and this was after the people already knew about his problems with the IRS and Tax Commission,” wrote Pamela Kaynor, Benewah County GOP chairman. The committee also received several emails and letters from Hart supporters, several of them identical. W.L. Leiby of Coeur d’Alene wrote in a Dec. 9 letter, “What is the problem here? Is it that rep. Hart supported and was supported by the tea-party? Is it that he supported staunch new conservatives against tired old dead-wood? Why is it Rep. Hart is  being persecuted by the establishment?”

According to public records including IRS liens and court documents, Hart owes more than $500,000 in back state and federal income taxes, penalties and interest. He also has an outstanding judgment for thousands of dollars stemming from a 1996 timber theft on state endowment lands that he unsuccessfully defended in court.

Live-Blogging Hart Ethics Hearing

Idaho Reporter is providing live coverage via Twitter of the House Ethics Committee hearing on Rep. Eric Anderson’s at 10 o”clock today:

  • 11:44 a.m. Ethics committee votes 6-1 to continue investigation into Hart issues.
  • 11:40 a.m. Loertscher says Hart’s consituents had opportunity to act on issue and remove him from office. Hart was re-elected in November.
  • 11:37 a.m. Loertscher plans to vote against motion to continue, says all legislators made mistakes in their past.
  • 11:30 a.m. Brian Kane phones in while traveling, sounds like he is ordering food. Deputy AG Kane says motion on the table to continue seems like a never-ending fishing expedition. Kane says motions must be specific. He also says Hart has the right to challenge payment of taxes.
  • 11:21 a.m. Rep. Wills, now awake, formal opinion from AG’s office would be helpful to investigation.
  • 11:20 a.m. Stevenson moves for further investigation into Hart matter. Deputy AG Kane will do investigation. Jaquet seconds.
  • 11:09 a.m. I think Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenn Ferry, just fell asleep at Hart ethics hearing. Pretty sure that just happened.
  • Much more below

Anderson: Hart & Co. ‘Watching Me’

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.

  • Rep. Phil Hart’s third ethics hearing in the last six months is set for 10 a.m. (PST) at the Capitol. Idaho Reporter will provide live coverage via Twitter.

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?

Anderson: Hart confronted him over ethics complaint, said he’s being watched

Rep. Eric Anderson, 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 the Dec. 2 organizational 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. “They made this very personal with me,” Anderson said.

“He confronted me, right coming out of the chambers, right there at those doors where you come out of the (House) chambers,”  Anderson said. 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.

The House Ethics Committee meets at 11 a.m. today for its initial meeting in response to Anderson’s ethics complaint against Hart, which alleges that Hart has violated his oath of office by fighting against paying his state and federal income taxes and declaring that they’re unconstitutional; by invoking legislative privilege to try to win delays in his state and federal tax fights; and by illegally cutting logs from state school endowment land and using them to build his log home in Athol in 1996, and never paying an outstanding judgment over the theft.

Last Thursday, a Kootenai County judge tossed out Hart’s appeal of a state Tax Commission order to pay $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest, calling Hart’s arguments “wholly unsupported,” “unthinkable,” and, in his arguments that an Arizona case showed legislative privilege should exempt him from time limits to file his state tax appeal, making an “attempt to deceive this Court.” Hart said last week he hasn’t yet decided whether to appeal again.

Boundary County R’s (Heart) Hart

Boundary County Republicans sent the following letter to House Speaker Lawerence Denney: The Boundary County Republican Central Committee strongly believes that our legislators should be held to the highest standards of ethical behavior and moral conduct. We believe that Rep. Phil Hart meets these expectations and has this committee’s full support and respect. Rep. Hart has, in our opinion, earned the unofficial title of the Conservative Leader of the Idaho House of Representatives. … The Boundary County Republican Central Committee hereby resolves that should the ethics complaint against Rep. Hart be shown to be unsubstantiated or unfounded, that it would be in the best interests of the citizens of the State of Idaho that Rep. Hart be reinstated to his position on the Revenue and Taxation Committee/Donna Capurso, chairman, Boundary County Republican Central Committee. More here.

Question: What do you make of the position by Boundary County Republicans that Rep. Phil Hart should be reappointed to the House Revenue & Taxation Committee?

Some Solons Oppose Anderson Move

(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.

  • Hart quote in CdA Press: “”He (Anderson) is rehashing some issues that have already been settled,” Hart said. “At this point in time it’s a distraction.”

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?

Anderson Flooded w/Anti-Hart E-mails

Huckleberries has heard from three different sources that Eric Anderson has received thousands of e-mails over the state system supporting his position in asking that Rep. Phil Hart be removed from the Idaho Legislature, as a result of Hart’s well-publicized troubles with income taxes and state endowment timber. Seems Anderson has told people involved in the North Idaho tour for legislators that he has never received so many e-mails on a matter during his legislative career.

Anderson: Hart’s Gotta Go

In Coeur d’Alene for the North Idaho 2010 Legislative Tour, Anderson told IdahoReporter.com Sunday that he wants to see Hart voluntarily resign or be forced out of the Idaho House of Representatives. “These are serious issues he needs to deal with,” said Anderson.  “His continued service does a disservice to the institution as a whole.” Anderson, focusing on Hart’s 1996 theft of timber from state endowment lands, said that the miscues of the Athol Republican are a “huge stain upon the reputation on the Idaho House of Representatives and those who serve in that body.”  … The grievance isn’t personal for Anderson.  “This isn’t about me, this is about my desire, my conviction, to see the institution sanctified and appreciated for what it actually is,” he explained/Dustin Hurst, Idaho Reporter. More here.

Question: Feel free to predict what House Speaker Lawerence Denney will do with state Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, this week.

Tough Decisions Ahead

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?

Hart Faces Another Ethics Complaint

A GOP lawmaker from North Idaho has filed a new ethics complaint against Rep. Phil Hart, saying Hart’s 1996 theft of state school endowment-owned timber, claims of legislative immunity and tax protesting show he’s violated his oath of office. Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, calls Hart’s actions a “stain” on the House and says he should be removed from office. “I’m a little frustrated with leadership right now because they haven’t taken action,” said Anderson, a third-term representative who just won a fourth term in the House. “The speaker should have done something a long time ago”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. Link to full SR story here. See Anderson’s ethics complaint document here.

Question: Will a complaint by a respected North Idaho lawmaker like Anderson pressure House Speaker Denney to do something about his “Hart” problem?

New ethics complaint filed against Hart by North Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson

A GOP lawmaker from North Idaho has filed a new ethics complaint against Rep. Phil Hart, saying Hart’s 1996 theft of state school endowment-owned timber, claims of legislative immunity and tax protesting show he’s violated his oath of office.

Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, calls Hart’s actions a “stain” on the House and says he should be removed from office.  “I’m a little frustrated with leadership right now because they haven’t taken action,” said Anderson, a third-term representative who just won a fourth term in the House. “The speaker should have done something a long time ago.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.