More Truth: Rules For Pursuing An Ethics Complaint
Will the House of Representatives Ethics Committee Conduct Appropriate Investigations Into Misconduct?
By Sue Dawson
With all the flap lately about the ethical misconduct of Idaho State Legislature members, I decided to find out what the actual rules are for pursuing an ethics complaint against an elected House of Representative official.
I was once again stunned by the incompetence or perhaps suspiciously intentional opportunity for cover-up. What follows is what I found out, which by the way, any of you could research for yourself on line at legislature.idaho.gov/statutesrules/houserules/
As I sorted through House Rule # 76 on Ethics Committee, I realized that there was no way to know if a complaint has been filed, or how many complaints may have been filed in the past, or even how long it takes to typically go through the ethics violation process unless a complaint has reached the stage of actual investigation.
According to House Rule #76, there is no requirement for, or time frame for the Chairman of the Ethics Committee to move forward with an ethics complaint. Wait. This means the Chairman holds the sole discretion for the complaint to move forward or not? Hmm, sounds fishy already.
The chairman, at some point in time, is supposed to call a session of the Ethics Committee to investigate the written complaint against a fellow House member. There is a pretty well defined procedure for how this is all handled once the complaint is given to the one being accused by the Chairman. But the big glaring flaw in the rule is that there is NO COMPELLING REQUIREMENT for the chairman to do anything at all with the written complaint once he/she receives the documentation from a House member filing the complaint!
In the hands of an unethical chairman, apparently he could stall, delay, or put off indefinitely a charge that he wants to suppress. And because all such charges are necessarily strictly confidential, it would be a serious breach of “ethics” to disclose that he has even received such a complaint until such time that he chooses to take action with the committee.
Understandably, the charge of misconduct is purposefully held in the strictest confidence until the Chairman moves on it by giving a copy of the complaint to the one so charged and then by scheduling a committee meeting. Only then does the proverbial clock begin to tick; two weeks for the defendant to respond in writing to the committee and henceforth to appear before the committee to defend against the charges. At that point the charges become public. Eventually the committee will decide if the claim of misconduct has any merit or whether the charges will be dismissed. From there the process is pretty well defined.
Allow me to put forth an example explaining my concern.
In the case of Representative Christy Perry and her loathsome indiscretions with Senator Jim Guthrie, and their family-wrecking escapades for the past two years which has been in the news frequently, the question arises: Has no one in the House filed a complaint? Are there any House members who are embarrassed or shamed by the sleazy misconduct and the disgrace the adulterous affair has reflected on the House of Representatives? If someone has actually filed a complaint, it would be a serious breach of confidentiality for the complaint to be disclosed to anyone by the complainant or by the Chairman.
And so, therein lies the opportunity for a cover up, if there is one. We will never actually know whether a complaint has been filed if the Chairman chooses not move forward with it. The temptation easily presents itself for the Chairman of the Ethics Committee to sweep an annoying complaint under the rug and hush it up. –Especially if the chairman were friends with Representative Perry. No one in our Idaho State Legislature would actually do this, would they?
Now come the allegations against Speaker Bedke himself. –More allegations of the slimiest sort. Will there be an investigation? My bet is on the cover-up scenario.