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The Oath Of Office

“The whole dispute centers on the inclusion of the words ‘and laws” in the oath of office

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The Oath Of Office

By: Kathy Rose

Two Bonner County residents, Rick Gray and Daniel Rose, submitted an Affidavit of Maladministration of County Offices Oath of Office to several county elected officials earlier this year.

The claim was made that the oaths of office taken are unconstitutional and should be readministered. The Idaho Constitution provides specific language for the oaths of office initially in Article III Section 25.  Oath of office. The members of the legislature shall, before they enter upon the duties of their respective offices, take or subscribe the following oath or affirmation:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Idaho, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of senator (or representative, as the case may be) according to the best of my ability.”

And such oath may be administered by the governor, secretary of state, or judge of the Supreme Court, or presiding officer of either house.

This language is specific to the legislature. However, a broader reference to “all officers” is found in Article XXI Section 12.  Qualifications of officers. All officers elected at such election shall, within thirty days after they have been declared elected, take the oath required by this Constitution and give the same bond required by the law of the territory to be given in case of like officers of the territory, district or county, and shall thereupon enter upon the duties of their respective offices; but the legislature may require by law all such officers to give other or further bonds as a condition of their continuance in office.

To clarify any ambiguity within the Constitution, in 1983 the Legislature passed Idaho Statute 59-401 which specifies the oath of office as “I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Idaho, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of     (insert office)     according to the best of my ability.”

The oath of office taken by Bonner County elected officials has the additional phrase “and the laws of the State of Idaho”.

Public records requests were submitted to all Idaho counties for their current oath of office.

Three counties did not respond. Power County refused to fulfill the request. Sixteen of the remaining 40 Idaho counties, or approximately 40% have added similar wording and also do not conform to the Idaho Constitution and statute.

It is nearly impossible to determine when the additional wording was added but it can be rectified going forward. At the Bonner County Commissioner’s March 19, 2024 business meeting, Clerk Rosedale gave a response and read a statement by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Bill Wilson.

In Wilson’s opinion “The whole dispute centers on the inclusion of the words ‘and laws” in the oath of office taken by the county elected officials. It is not something we can or should address.”

It raises the question of why it cannot or should not be addressed? Isn’t this a fundamental and basic requirement? To correct the current situation would only require readministering the oaths of office using the correct wording. At this time no one appears to be willing to remedy the non-compliance. Will it be rectified going forward now that it has been brought to the forefront?

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