Op-Ed by Hazafi Polgár
On Monday, August 2, the House Ethics and Policy Committee will hold a public hearing to weigh evidence and consider the political fate of Representative Priscilla Giddings of White Bird. They are claiming Giddings disclosed the name of an intern who engaged in sexual act with another Representative but later claimed the act was not consensual, plus that Giddings posted a picture of the woman on her Facebook page and then lied when accused by the committee of these actions. Now the Committee is stating the Intern was a “whistleblower” and that Giddings may have been acting in retaliation by disclosing the woman’s name.
Except that Giddings didn’t disclose the woman’s name. An attorney did.
How Unethical can This Ethics Committee get?
Claiming ‘Jane Doe’ is a whistleblower is about as far-fetched as saying Jeffrey Epstein was a babysitter. The only reason for the Ethics Committee members to make this absurd claim is to inflate the perceived severity of Giddings’ alleged misdoings – and to be sure, there were no misdoings by Giddings. As was described in an interview with Giddings, it was the Ethics Committee that acted unethically by not releasing Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger’s counter-complaint to the public after they announced their formal investigation of him would move forward.
If Monday’s meeting at the Capitol were truly a public hearing and not an orchestrated publicity stunt, they would be considering evidence presented and weighing it with intellectual honesty. However, if the von Ehlinger hearing is an indication of how this committee operates, the committee has already collected its evidence, assigned their own interpretation to it, and have already drafted their predetermined outcome.
As a brief review, police investigated the intern’s claim against von Ehlinger but found no credible evidence to support it, so their investigation was closed. Following that, von Ehlinger’s lawyer, who previously served as Idaho’s Attorney General and Lt. Governor, legally released documents that contained the name of the intern.
After the police dropped their investigation, House Majority leadership, including Speaker Scott Bedke filed an ethics complaint against von Ehlinger. Once the Committee found cause to proceed, they were supposed to release all documents to the public. Giddings noticed that the Ethics Committee had made public the woman’s version of what happened, but not that of the Representative. When someone sent Giddings a link to a news article that provided both sides of the story, Giddings used her Facebook page and her weekly legislative newsletter to link to that article. Because the article contained the name of the intern, as released by the Representative’s attorney, the Ethics Committee claims Giddings disclosed her name.
The Intern is Suddenly A Whistle-Blower
To show how far the Committee is grasping at straws in attempting to smear Giddings, Representative Sage Dixon, Chair of the Ethics Committee, is now claiming that “Jane Doe” has whistleblower status.
It’s been made known that in a June 21 letter to Giddings, Dixon wrote, “The intern is a whistleblower, and again, the question arises as to whether disclosure of her name could be construed as retaliation.”
Let’s hope no lawyers are advising Dixon to use this asinine, contrived logic.
First, by definition, a whistleblower is someone working within an organization who reveals something covert or deceptive going on within that agency or organization. The legal definition is, “An employee who alleges wrongdoing by his or her employer of the sort that violates public law or tends to injure a considerable number of people.”
As a hypothetical example, think of someone working at the Capitol revealing that the Ethics Committee spent more than $100,000 of taxpayer money for the purpose of smearing one of Scott Bedke’s political rivals. If that happened, such a person would be a whistleblower. To file a police report that you were forced to have oral sex at the end of a date with a State Representative is not being a whistle-blower. (And if that police report were false she would be guilty of a misdemeanor.)
Second, let’s remember who actually disclosed Jane Doe’s real name, because it was not Priscilla Giddings. Scott McKay, the first attorney for von Ehlinger, wrote the entire story of what happened the night of March 9, and he included Jane Doe’s real name in that document. Later, David Leroy, a former Attorney General and Lt. Governor in Idaho released that document to the press.
If the committee is obsessing over the disclosure of Jane Doe’s real name, perhaps they should have a conversation with David Leroy, not Priscilla Giddings.
Side note: For the record, Leroy was perfectly within his legal right to do what he did.
If the Ethics Committee pursues this angle of claiming ‘Jane Doe’ is a whistleblower, they are truly grasping at straws. It not only shows how pathetically weak their arguments are, it also shows that their true purpose in all this is to smear Scott Bedke’s political opponent for the Lt. Governor’s race.
This hearing on Monday has all the earmarks of a witch hunt against a conservative Christian legislator, and it is an embarrassment to citizens of Idaho – and especially embarrassing for the citizens in the districts of those on the Ethics Committee.
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