Ethics Charges Against Idaho Lawmaker Dismissed

An ethics panel unanimously dismissed charges against state Sen. Monty Pearce (R-New Plymouth).  Idaho Democrats accused the lawmaker of violating conflict of interest rules on an oil and gas bill.  Wednesday’s ethics panel discussion played out like a courtroom drama.   

Sen. Dean Mortimer (R-Idaho Falls) chairs the ethics panel.   The six member committee has three Republicans and three Democrats.  They’re judge and jury, if you will, to decide whether an ethics complaint against Sen. Monty Pearce has merit. 

Sen. Les Bock (D-Boise)  is one of the minority party's leaders who brought charges against Pearce.  Consider him the lead prosecutor who makes a closing argument. "This committee has a duty to investigate further," says Bock.  "And I fear that we will have summary proceedings this morning. The matter will be dismissed which I think would be a travesty."

Democrats say Pearce personally benefited from an oil and gas bill he shepherded through the Senate’s Natural Resources and Environment Committee, and then voted in favor of last week.  Pearce disclosed he held oil and gas leases right before the bill’s final vote.  He also signed a lease in November with Snake River Oil and Gas.  Attorney Charles Peterson represents Pearce.   He says, "The complaining parties have no proof that he received any benefit different than anybody else who signed those leases with Snake River Oil."

That argument prevailed with the ethics panel.  Three Democrats joined their Republican colleagues to dismiss charges.  They’ll also recommend the Idaho Senate consider clearer rules for disclosure of personal interests. 

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio.