Thursday, March 22, 2012

Democrats: Ethics Panel Had 'Unusual Interpretation of Senate Rules'

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 10:33 AM

The Idaho Legislature's minority leadership isn't happy that a special Senate Ethics Committee chose to dismiss conflict of interest charges against New Plymouth Republican Sen. Monty Pearce. The six-member panel, which included three Democrats, voted unanimously not to pursue further the probe into Pearce's private dealings with an oil and gas company while shepherding oil and gas legislation.

"Currently, less than 1 percent of Idahoans hold oil and gas leases," reads a statement from minority leadership. "Comments made by some members of the committee reveal a belief that, a the very least, Sen. 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."

Boise Democratic Sen. Les Bock, who testified in front of the ethics panel and has extensive experience on conflicts-of-interest matters, said the committee had "an unusual interpretation of Senate rules."

"The specific concerns we raised were not fully investigated," said Bock. "And we were able to prove in short order that Sen. 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."

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