Update, Thursday morning: Rep. Heather Scott has been stripped of her committee assignments.
BOISE – In an outburst that shocked and upset her fellow lawmakers, controversial North Idaho Rep. Heather Scott claimed female members of the Idaho House get leadership positions only if they “spread their legs.”
She’s facing a possible formal reprimand after her outburst.
Scott, R-Blanchard, made the comment during the Legislature’s organizational session in December, in the House lounge with multiple lawmakers present. She repeated it on the floor of the House later.
According to an Idaho Statesman article published late Wednesday, Scott angrily made the remark to Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, just after Boyle had learned that she would be the new chair of the House Agriculture Committee.
“That’s not true,” Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, said Wednesday of Scott’s allegations. “I’ve been here almost 10 years. People get ahead here on the basis of merit, in my humble opinion. I’ve never seen anything that would cause me to question that premise.”
Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, said, “It’s important to me that the public understands that it’s absolutely a false allegation – that it’s not what happens in this building. It’s extremely disrespectful.”
Speaker Scott Bedke declined to say whether a complaint had been received. Ethics complaints are confidential until an ethics committee finds “probable cause” that misconduct has occurred.
But the matter has the Idaho House buzzing, and Scott could face formal sanctions even before an ethics committee can be impaneled.
Lawmakers who heard Scott’s comment, but declined to be identified, said they were appalled. “It was pretty uncomfortable,” said one.
“A number of the lady legislators are very upset about this,” said Perry, “not only this, but some of the other behavior” that Scott has exhibited. “They don’t feel very safe. Rep. Scott carries a gun.”
So does Perry, who owns a gun store. She said she didn’t directly hear Scott’s comment, but it was described to her by multiple witnesses.
Perry called Boyle “a very respected legislator here,” and said, “It’s just entirely inappropriate.”
Scott and Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, have been agitating against Republican leaders in the Idaho House of Representatives. They traveled around the state this fall, charging that the Legislature isn’t conservative enough and they’re the true conservatives.
In September, Scott told an eastern Idaho gathering, “There are two parties up in Boise, and it’s not Republican and Democrat like you may think – it’s the gravy train party and the party working for the people. The gravy train party are voting in special perks and special rights for their individual gain.”
Hartgen, of Twin Falls, said he thinks it’s “inappropriate for legislators to invade another legislator’s district and be critical of them.”
Scott’s fellow lawmakers have raised other issues about her behavior as well. Perry submitted a letter to Bedke on Wednesday morning saying Scott has displayed “paranoid and aggressive behavior,” including damaging a fire sensor in the House caucus room because she thought it was a listening device and she was being spied on.
“She has displayed aggressive and anti-social behavior by sneering and glaring at members during meetings and passing in the halls,” Perry wrote. “She has even gone so far as to make false allegations regarding members of the caucus to others within the caucus and in the public realm. These allegations include accusing the female members of the caucus of sleeping with members of leadership in order to secure chairman and vice chairmanship positions.”
Two meetings of House committee chairmen already have been convened by House GOP leaders this week to address Scott’s behavior and confirm witness accounts.
Hartgen said, “We’re here to do the people’s business – to consider laws and take testimony for the good of the state. It seems to me that the tent should be large enough to do that without bickering and fighting or trying to undermine the leadership.”
On the opening day of this year’s legislative session on Monday, Scott and Nate announced their own website, “Growing Freedom for Idaho,” sharply criticizing actions by the Legislature in recent years, including complying with federal requirements for international child support enforcement and approving a conservation easement at Clagstone Meadows in North Idaho.
“Many Idaho legislators are NOT working for your interests in a sovereign state but willingly serve as compliant enforcement tools of the federal government,” the two wrote on the website. “It is time to boldly go on the offense for freedom and liberty.”
On Tuesday, the two held what they announced as the first of weekly meetings with other lawmakers to press their “freedom agenda.”
“To have a small group that goes around, district by district, and trashes the other members, I think is saddening and inappropriate,” Hartgen said.
As the news about possible sanctions against Scott rippled through the state Capitol on Wednesday, ironically, every member of the Legislature, including Scott, attended a mandatory ethics training session that lasted all afternoon.
Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, said the training was valuable. “I think it’s always good to have reminders of standards and values, kind of a road map to remind us of where we should go,” she said. “The timing is what it is.”
She spent more than half an hour closeted with Scott in a committee hearing room late Wednesday afternoon, but declined to comment on their heated conversation.
The Idaho Statesman reported that Boyle declined to comment. She’s been an ally of Scott; the two traveled together, along with Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, to visit the armed occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge last year.
Perry, whose ethics were questioned by some lawmakers last year when a blogger claimed she’d had an affair with a senator, said, “I’m highly complimentary of leadership for bringing the ethics training in. It was wonderful, really.”
Scott declined to comment.
Scott, an outspoken conservative who made headlines last year when she displayed the Confederate battle flag at a local parade, won a second term in November, after a campaign marked by allegations that armed Scott supporters harassed backers of her Democratic challenger.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.