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Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke says stalker’s false account twisted in Redoubt News report

FILE – House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, speaks with reporters in his Capitol office in January. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

BOISE – Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke accused a former secretary of stalking him three years ago as his wife underwent cancer treatment and then attempting to extort money from him by concocting a story the two had an affair.

The Idaho attorney general’s office referred the matter to the Idaho State Police for investigation, but no charges were filed.

The story caught fire last week after the far-right Redoubt News published an article that was then distributed online by Gem State Patriot News.

“I didn’t want to pursue this person civilly,” Bedke said Monday. “To the extent this all dropped and went away and everyone went on with their lives, that was OK to me.”

Now, the woman is claiming she overheard Bedke and a governor’s office employee make lewd comments in the audience during a 2012 committee hearing when she was the secretary of the House State Affairs Committee.

Her account includes an “affidavit” from the woman about overhearing the comments, though the way that House committee hearing rooms are set up – with committee secretaries sitting next to the chairman at the front of the room, and the audience some distance away in the back of the room – it would have been extremely difficult for a secretary to overhear audience comments unless they were loud enough for all to hear.

At the committee hearing in question, a big crowd was present, including protesters with the “Occupy Boise” movement. A Spokesman-Review reporter was among members of the press who sat in the audience’s front row.

Bedke, who discussed the matter with the House GOP caucus on Monday and then with reporters, said, “I have nothing to hide … and everything that has been alleged is categorically false.”

He said it’s “premature” to say whether he’ll file any legal action against Redoubt News or the woman.

Bedke said he first received an unsolicited text from the woman in March 2013.

“I didn’t even know who this person was,” Bedke said. He said when he inquired, he learned that she had been employed as a committee secretary for one session in 2012, but not hired back again.

According to an ISP incident report from May 2013, officers interviewed the woman, who said she hadn’t had an affair with Bedke but had a “crush” on him and the two planned to marry after he went through a divorce.

She also claimed Bedke and a governor’s office employee, attorney Tom Perry, ruined her chances for employment at the Idaho attorney general’s office. Furthermore, she accused the two of affecting a settlement with her former employer, the Small Business Administration, that “magically” caused her to receive unemployment checks from the state Department of Labor for $343 a week.

In the letter she sent to Bedke’s home, she demanded money, saying she couldn’t live on $343 a week; and suggested she should be with Bedke rather than his wife, Sarah.

In June 2013, according to another ISP incident report, the ISP subpoenaed unemployment assistance records from the Idaho Department of Labor in response to the woman’s allegations. The ISP found that the $343 per week unemployment benefits were properly paid by the state to the woman after she was laid off from her position with the House and had nothing to do with the SBA.

Idaho Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, an attorney who represented Bedke in the matter in 2013, wrote a letter to ISP Director Col. Ralph Powell saying that Scott and Sarah Bedke “need peace – they want to focus on Sarah’s health. They desire thoughts centered on faith-oriented matters, not distracted or troubled by the delusional and extortion-oriented letters and texts” sent by the woman. Davis also sent a “cease and desist” letter to the woman in August 2013.

Bedke said Monday that he received unsolicited texts, the letter and a gift sent to his home from the woman, all of which were reported to the ISP, but hadn’t heard from her since 2014.

The Redoubt News story attempts to tie the incident to Bedke’s removal of the committee assignments of Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, after she publicly made lewd comments about other female House members, saying they only advance through sexual favors. After Scott apologized for her comments, her committee assignments were restored.

Redoubt News writer Sheri Dovale wrote in her online story that the woman “provided the affidavit gratis to us in hopes of exposing the immoral sexist conduct which prevails in our legislature.” In it, the woman says she contacted Scott after hearing about Scott’s clash with Bedke over committee assignments. The article was headlined, “The Truth About Our Morally Bankrupt Legislative Leadership.”

Scott said Monday that she had no comment on the article.

“I went to leadership early on with that letter,” Scott said, referring to the affidavit.

Bedke said, “I’m not a professional politician. I’m a rancher with a good name. If it were just me, that would be one thing. But this comes after my wife, my family, my kids, the office of the speaker and the institution of the House of Representatives.”

He said he felt “duty bound” to speak out after the article was published. “I don’t think this is right,” he said. “I don’t think this is what we’re about here in Idaho. Call me old-fashioned, but I think we are much better than this.”

In 2012, when the alleged incident in the committee meeting took place, Bedke wasn’t the House speaker; he was assistant majority leader.

Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane confirmed that his office was contacted about the matter and referred it to the Idaho State Police. The ISP confirmed to the Associated Press that it has the case on record.

Redoubt News, based in North Idaho, bills itself as “The Voice for the People in the American Redoubt,” a movement calling on conservative Christian “preppers” fleeing more populated states to move to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Eastern Washington and Oregon. Backers see the region as a “redoubt” – a place to settle and defend themselves when the rest of the nation falls victim to looming disaster.

Scott, a second-term state representative from Idaho’s northernmost district, has been a vocal supporter of the movement.