by Logan Finney, Idaho Reports
The House Ethics Committee unanimously found that Rep. Priscilla Giddings behaved in a manner unbecoming of a representative, and voted to recommend she be censured by the House and removed from her post on the Commerce and Human Resources Committee.
Two ethics complaints asserted that Giddings, R-White Bird, acted inappropriately when she disseminated the identity and photo of an individual who reported sexual assault by former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston, then misrepresented her actions to the Ethics Committee while under oath.
The committee chose to dismiss the first complaint filed by Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, because its allegations were also covered in the second bipartisan complaint.
The committee reiterated several times that they were not investigating whether any criminal conduct had occurred. Discussions of state statutes such as the human rights act and whistleblower act took place to establish reasonable expectations of conduct.
“Certainly the statute gives us some guidance regarding the public policy of the state of Idaho,” said Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise.
The committee also cited precedent from an incident in 2012 where a state senator was charged with sexual harassment of a female staffer whose identity was not made public.
“We as a committee needed to obtain information to determine if there was probable cause to move either of these complaints forward. If she had owned her actions and apologized, it’s entirely conceivable that the complaints could have been dismissed,” said Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City.
Committee members expressed disapproval of Giddings’ behavior in Monday’s hearing, saying that it corroborated the allegations of dishonesty outlined in the complaints.
“Based on yesterday, the prior [von Ehlinger] hearing was not an outlier, but part of a pattern. The half-truths, misinformation and incomplete facts given by the respondent, both yesterday and during the prior hearing harms the integrity of the House,” McCrostie said.
“Witnesses yesterday testified under oath that they believe she did not tell the full truth under oath. That she was less than forthcoming, she was elusive and evasive in her responses in the previous hearing,” said Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls. “I saw that pattern repeated yesterday—with the addition, yesterday, of false statements.”
Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, addressed his comments directly to Giddings, though she was not in the room. He criticized her for wasting the committee’s time, failing to listen to witness testimony and refusing to directly answer questions.
Crane described several statements about the ethics investigation made by Giddings in conservative media interviews as “patently false” or “bald-faced lies.”
“You’re entitled to your own narrative, but you’re not entitled to make up your own facts,” Crane said.
The committee has up to thirty days to publish a full report outlining their findings and recommendations. That recommendation for censure will go before the full House for a vote.
The House is currently in recess at the call of Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley. Ethics Committee chairman Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, said if the House is to vote on the recommendations, it must be done this year, rather than when the House convenes in January for the next session.
Last week House Clerk Carrie Maulin also told Idaho Reports that House Rule 45 requires ethics recommendations be taken up in the current session.
Censure is a formal expression of disapproval. House Rule 45 states that censure may come with additional conditions or restrictions, in this case removal from the commerce committee.
Giddings also serves on the Agricultural Affairs Committee and the budget-writing Joint Finance Appropriations Committee.
You can watch the committee deliberations and recommendation here on the Idaho Reports YouTube channel:
In the case of former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, the Ethics Committee recommended that he be suspended without pay, vacate his capitol office and appoint a substitute representative to serve in his place. He resigned before that recommendation was voted upon by the House.
Ruth Brown contributed reporting to this article.