Mayor Bieter's Campaign Fundraiser Directed City Business As Jobs Overlapped

Oct 29, 2019

Boise’s former chief lobbyist was actively directing city staff on projects while simultaneously working for Mayor Dave Bieter’s re-election campaign earlier this summer.

Emails obtained by Boise State Public Radio through a public records request show Amber Pence contacted city staff using her city email account six times this past June. Anyone who emailed her during that month received an out of office reply.

Pence left the mayor’s office at the end of May and used her remaining vacation time beginning June 1 — the same day she began working as Bieter’s chief fundraiser. During this nearly month of overlap, she was still eligible for taxpayer-subsidized benefits. City policy also allows employees to be paid out in a lump sum for any remaining vacation they might have earned when they resign.

Emails from June 1 through June 28 show Pence telling staff to draft statements by the mayor for the Association of Idaho Cities annual conference, directing Bieter’s policy advisor to attend a legislative meeting on state Medicaid expansion funding and instructing city employees to take meetings with other elected and political officials.

On June 20, Pence sent a message to city Public Works Director Steve Burgos using her campaign email account.

In the email, she said Bieter had promised to set up a meeting between Burgos and a potential utility infrastructure contractor, IUS Global. This initial promise came during a meeting she, the mayor and the contractor had prior to her joining the campaign.

She asked that Burgos meet with a representative from the company and Idaho Power lobbyist, Rich Hahn, to which Burgos replied, “Will do.”

In a statement, city spokesman Mike Journee maintains Pence did not violate a city policy that forbids employees from engaging in political activities while on-duty and representing the city.

“Like any conscientious public servant, she is ensuring these incomplete city business items are attended to by other city staff members so they can see them to completion,” Journee said, noting that “There are no political activities represented in those emails…”

Earlier this month, Journee said, “If she’s on vacation, she can do what she wants to do.”

He also said Pence didn’t break a policy that says, “city employees are prohibited from providing outside employment services” to anyone they report to, or anyone they supervise outside of their normal job duties because the mayor isn’t classified as an “employee” under federal law.

Pence hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment.

During an interview with Boise State Public Radio’s George Prentice earlier this month, Bieter said, “[Pence had] left the city, she’d resigned. We wanted it clean that way and really, that’s it.”

“I don’t think there’s news at all there. She did everything right…” he said.

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

Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio