Can citizens file ethics complaints against sitting legislators?
North Idaho political activist Larry Spencer insists he can pursue an ethics complaint against Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake. State officials, including House Speaker Lawerence Denney and a deputy attorney general, aren't so sure.
In an article written by the Spokane Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell, reprinted in the Dec. 27 Statesman, Denney downplays the notion of a citizen's complaint, but said he passed the complaint along to House Ethics Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona. Said Denney, R-Midvale: "Our rules on ethics are basically for the House, and I think the attorney general will say that a complaint from other than a House member is not acceptable."
Deputy attorney general Brian Kane concurred. "The general rule is that the House rules apply only to members of the House," Kane told Russell.
Spencer requested a response, which ran as a letter to the editor in Sunday's Statesman: "House Rule 76 clearly states that (ethics complaints) can be filed against a member by 'any person' and they historically have been filed by non-members."
Spencer is quoting from this section of House rules: "The speaker shall receive written, signed complaints from any person concerning misconduct involving legislative duties by a member of the House including, but not limited to, the alleged violation of the rules of the House of Representatives and the provisions of applicable law."
Spencer isn't the only citizen trying to go the ethics complaint route. Howard Griffiths, who waged an unsuccessful write-in campaign against Rep. Hart, R-Hayden, last week became the third person to file an ethics complaint against Hart.
One more point of dispute between Spencer and Russell. In his letter, Spencer contends Russell had never read his five-page ethics complaint before writing about it. Russell says she read the complaint beforehand.