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Law & Justice

Idaho Supreme Court Unanimously Backs State Legislature In Treasurer Lawsuit

Ada County Statehouse Capitol Building Treasurer Cashier

Idaho state Treasurer Julie Ellsworth won’t be moving her staff back into her historic office at the Capitol.

In a unanimous decision, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled against Ellsworth, saying the law was unambiguous: the state legislature has control over most of the state capitol’s office space.

She had refused to leave in 2019 when legislative leaders sent two letters telling her that lawmakers intended to occupy the first floor of the capitol building. House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) and former Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill (R-Rexburg) eventually sued her later that year.

Ellsworth argued Bedke and Hill didn’t have the power to sue or take over the office space without the approval of the full legislature, something two courts have now dismissed.

In the opinion, Justice John Stegner wrote that the location and preservation of the treasurer’s historic office is significant, but that it’s a policy decision.

Stegner also said that previous negotiations to keep the treasurer’s office at the capitol when it was undergoing renovations in 2007 were never finalized or put into law and aren’t legally binding.

“If Otter had wanted to ensure that the Treasurer’s office would remain on the first floor permanently, he could have exercised his constitutional power to veto the bill until such a provision was included,” Stegner wrote.

Ellsworth will have to cover the legislature’s legal fees for the case, which ultimately comes from the taxpayers.

“The court has spoken,” Ellsworth said in a statement. “I am still concerned this is another step towards a full-time legislature which will grow government and create further distance and isolation between the citizens of Idaho and their elected officials.”

“While we applaud the pointed and sensible decision by our Supreme Court, we would have preferred the State Treasurer had respected the rule of law and avoided the need for this lawsuit,” Bedke said in a statement.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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