by Logan Finney, Idaho Reports
The Ethics and House Policy Committee met Monday, August 2, to review two complaints accusing Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, of conduct unbecoming a Representative and detrimental to the House as a body.
Lawmakers who testified expressed disappointment at her actions, while Giddings repeatedly objected to questions and at times was openly combative with the committee.
“This is not a criminal proceeding,” chairman Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, told the room. “There are many things within these hearings that look like they’re criminal proceedings, but they’re not. This is an internal matter for the House and its membership.”
Giddings said she believed the hearing’s outcome was predetermined against her. She acted as her own counsel, saying she didn’t have the funds to hire legal counsel “which I do not anticipate will have any bearing on this committee’s actions.”
Giddings once again characterized the complaint from a group of 24 representatives as a targeted attack by House Speaker Scott Bedke, a fellow candidate for lieutenant governor. Witnesses said that wasn’t the case.
She left the room after delivering her opening statement, despite having the ability to cross-examine witnesses. Committee members expressed disappointment with this and said they desired to hear her side of the story.
They also said Giddings did not participate in the preliminary investigation that took place privately before the public hearing was scheduled.
“I’m hopeful that she will come back to the hearing and we can have a dialogue,” said Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa.
Witnesses called by the committee consisted of representatives who signed the complaints: Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell; Brooke Green, D-Boise; Chris Mathias, D-Boise; John Vander Woude, R-Nampa; and Julie Yamamoto, R-Caldwell.
Green said that she was the lead organizer behind the group complaint. She and three female Republican House members reached out to representatives individually to gauge their interest, then later approached Bedke about signing on after a sizable bipartisan effort had been established.
Bedke’s name is listed first in the complaint because the names are in alphabetical order.
The first aspect of the complaints had to do with Giddings sharing a conservative blog’s article that included the name and photo of a staffer who accused former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger of sexual assault.
“Does she have a right to post on her Facebook whatever she wants? I would say yes. But then, you have to accept the consequences that come with that,” Yamamoto said.
When asked by the committee, Yamamoto said she wouldn’t have signed the complaint had Giddings issued a retraction, or alternatively would have removed her name if Giddings had apologized to the committee for her behavior.
The second component of the complaints was that lawmakers felt Giddings was evasive and misrepresented her actions while testifying during the von Ehlinger hearing.
“Instead of just owning that story which was posted to your Facebook and your newsletter, to say, ‘Well, I didn’t read it all, or, you know, I really didn’t post it because it was actually just a link,’ to me that was disingenuous at best,” Yamamoto said.
“I wouldn’t say it was a lie,” Vander Woude said. “It probably wasn’t the whole truth, but we all know half-truths are more dangerous than whole truths.”
When called as a witness herself Giddings returned to the hearing, repeatedly questioning the investigation process, contesting which documents the committee was required to publish under House rules, and arguing the committee had failed to provide her with the evidence against her.
She also refused to answer some questions she argued weren’t related to the complaints, and objected to particular phrasing in questions about her opinions and beliefs.
“Just be candid with the committee. Tell us yes or no,” Crane said. “Don’t hedge this way and hedge this way and play these, these semantics and games. It makes it much more difficult for the committee in trying to determine what the outcome [should be], what your intent was, how this went down.”
“If you’re gonna accuse me of playing games, then do I get the opportunity to accuse you of playing games?” Giddings asked.
“I think you have, Representative,” Dixon responded.
The Ethics Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday for deliberations. They have up to 30 days to issue a recommendation to the full House or the complaint will be dismissed.
“You are one strong woman,” one audience member said as Giddings exited the room to light applause.
Giddings refused multiple times to comment.