Idaho State Senate
Senate Minority Leadership
P.O. Box 83720 Boise, Idaho 83720-0081
For immediate release – Thursday, March 22, 2012
BOISE-Yesterday, the six-member, bi-partisan Senate Ethics Committee voted unanimously to dismiss conflict of interest charges filed against Senator Monty Pearce by this office. This comes as no surprise as GOP members telegraphed their intention to dismiss at the first meeting and the majority party employed dismissive antics during Senate business which highlighted a lack of regard for this serious allegation. Still, as the complainants, we are disappointed with the process as much as the result.
“While this has been an exceptionally difficult experience for all involved, as a self-regulating body, we firmly believe it was our duty to the citizens of Idaho to ask for a thorough review of Senator Pearce’s failure to disclose a conflict of interest until his final vote on H464,” said Senator Michelle Stennett. A member of Chairman Pearce’s Resources and Environment Committee, Senator Stennett added, “After months of committee hearings and votes, I was troubled by the senator’s 11th hour announcement of a possible conflict of interest resulting from his oil and gas leases dating back to the 1980s and the discovery of only one lease obtained this past November.”
The committee determined that proving a direct financial benefit for the senator, and that he was among a very small class of individuals who would benefit from the passage of H464, was too high a standard for the ad hoc group to meet. In his floor debate, the senator was enthusiastic about the economic benefits leaseholders would reap from oil and gas drilling. Currently, less than 1% of Idahoans hold oil and gas leases. Comments made by some members of the committee reveal a belief that, at the very least, Senator Pearce violated the spirit of the conflict of interest disclosure rules despite the insurmountable burden to prove his violation of the letter of that law.
“In an unusual interpretation of Senate rules, the onus was put solely on the claimants and any investigation by the committee was limited to the research done by our office which lacks subpoena power or the ability to take testimony under oath,” said Senator Les Bock, an attorney. “We made every effort to meet these demands but the specific concerns we raised were not fully investigated and we were unable to prove in short order that Senator Pearce would enjoy a direct pecuniary benefit as a narrow class of leaseholders despite our contention that the term conflict of interest includes both a personal and a pecuniary interest,” he said.
Throughout this unpleasant ordeal, there was consensus among all the participants on one issue: conflict of interest rules need to be strengthened and citizen legislators should receive regular training. “The line needs to be brighter so there is no room for doubt in the motives of senators tasked with balancing personal and public interests,” said Senate Minority Leader Edgar Malepeai. “The process could also be improved by maintaining confidentiality throughout the preliminary investigation. This would protect the defendant from undue media scrutiny and the complainant from slanderous accusations of political grandstanding,” he concluded.
For additional information, contact: Senator Edgar J. Malepeai
Senator Les Bock
Senator Michelle Stennett