House ethics committee recommends censure for North Idaho lawmaker

The House Ethics and Policy Committee voted unanimously Tuesday morning to recommend Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, be censured by the full House of Representatives and removed from one of her three assigned committees.

Under the recommendation, Giddings would be removed from the House Commerce and Human Resources Committee but remain on the Agricultural Affairs and the powerful budget-setting Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

In strongly worded statements, the five committee members — three Republicans and two Democrats — said Giddings’ behavior was unbecoming of a legislator and detrimental to the legislative body.

Two ethics complaints were referred to the committee in April and May, the first of which was filed by Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, stating Giddings could be charged with misdemeanors for creating a hostile work environment for a legislative staffer and filing a false report. That complaint was dismissed by the committee because it dealt with criminal matters.

The second complaint was signed by 25 legislators, including 17 Republicans and eight Democrats, stating it was inappropriate and unbecoming of a legislator for Giddings to post on Facebook the name and photo of the 19-year-old legislative staffer who accused former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston, of rape in April.

Von Ehlinger resigned his seat after the ethics committee recommended his suspension from the Legislature but has denied the allegations of rape.

The Boise Police Department investigated the rape allegations against von Ehlinger and referred the case to the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office for a decision on charges. Emily Lowe, spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office, told the Idaho Capital Sun on July 20 that they have received the police reports and further investigation is ongoing. No charges have been filed.

The five committee members read statements outlining their reasoning for the recommendation, including Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, who said Giddings repeatedly lied to the committee and to media outlets about the committee’s actions. Although Giddings was not present for the meeting, Crane directed his statement at her.

He took issue with Giddings’ statements at Monday’s hearing that the committee had not given her the opportunity to review the evidence against her or to call her own witnesses.

“You don’t know this, representative, but we spent over an hour on Friday when I was in the mountains with my family … to take not one, but two calls to deal with the issue of your (list of) witnesses that we received five minutes before the deadline of 8 a.m. on Friday morning,” Crane said. “Representative, you’re entitled to your own narrative, but you’re not entitled to make up your own facts.”

Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, said the original action of naming the alleged victim was unbecoming in itself, but Giddings’ lack of civility toward the committee and her fellow legislators was detrimental to the integrity of the House.

Censure requires a simple majority of the House of Representatives, but a substitute motion to expel Giddings could be drafted by a House member for consideration once it moves to the floor. In April, the committee members said they supported a substitute motion to expel von Ehlinger but did not express the same support for such an action against Giddings.

To bring the issue before the full House, Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, will be responsible for calling the members back into session from recess.

Idaho Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Christine Lords for questions: [email protected]. Follow Idaho Capital Sun on Facebook and Twitter.


Kelcie Moseley-Morris, Idaho Capital Sun

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