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Politics & Government

An Idaho House ethics committee is eyeing potential changes to its rules

Day 1 Aaron von Ehlinger ethics trial committee members
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio
Members of the House ethics committee confer with their lawyer, William Myers III, during the first day of an ethics hearing involving allegations Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger (R-Lewiston) raped a volunteer staffer.

This week, House lawmakers are looking at tweaking how they discipline their own members facing ethics complaints.

A House ethics committee earlier this year held two hearings that resulted in the resignation of one legislator and the censure of another.

A House intern accused former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger (R-Lewiston) of raping her this spring. Von Ehlinger resigned following a scathing two-day ethics hearing and faces two felony charges in Ada County over the allegations. He’s maintained that the sex was consensual.

Soon after von Ehlinger stepped down, two dozen lawmakers filed a complaint against Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R-White Bird).

Giddings shared a far-right blog article on Facebook that named and included a photo of the alleged rape victim, though ethics committee members recommended her censure and removal from another committee due to her conduct throughout the hearing and investigation.

Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa), who sits on the ethics committee, said she refused to attend private hearings behind closed doors before the hearing. The committee later subpoenaed her for the public hearing.

“You know, we probably need to change that,” Crane said, noting the rules don’t require subjects of complaints to participate in the process.

Supporters of Giddings and von Ehlinger have blasted the ethics hearing process, saying it’s been weaponized to attack far-right lawmakers.

Rep. John McCrostie (D-Garden City), another member of the committee, said that accusation is unfounded, especially with a Republican majority.

“Frankly, if you look at the numbers, if they’re going to do anything, you’d think they would weaponize it against the minority party and that hasn’t happened either,” McCrostie said.

Crane agreed that the process isn't targeting anyone. He said he visited with some of Giddings’ supporters last month to explain how the committee operates.

“And I said, ‘Look, we as a committee do not determine what complaints come to us.’”

Rep. Sage Dixon (R-Ponderay), who chairs the committee, said in an email that other changes, such as how the chairman is chosen, the involvement of attorneys, and the public hearing process itself could also be considered.

The group will discuss recommendations Monday and Tuesday at the state capitol. Any decisions made will need final approval by the full House.

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

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