Audit flags one of Sen. Guthrie’s trips, clears Rep. Perry
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POCATELLO — Legislative auditors uncovered possible reimbursement discrepancies regarding one of Sen. Jim Guthrie’s trips during an investigation prompted by his alleged sexual affair with a fellow lawmaker.
Conducted at the request of legislative leadership, the audit reviewed the past three years of travel vouchers for both Guthrie, R-Inkom, and state Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa.
The review was ordered last week after political activist Lance Earl of Rockland wrote an article on his website, LanceEarl.com, accusing Guthrie and Perry of inappropriately using state funds during their alleged extramarital trysts.
The audit determined Perry’s expense reports were for “allowable activities with a verifiable state business purpose as a member of the House of Representatives.” However, the auditors found that Guthrie was possibly over-reimbursed up to $121.14 for a trip to Boise in January 2016, according to the audit report released Friday morning.
Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill said he does not intend to ask Guthrie to pay back the money and any further action will probably not happen until the Legislature is back in session in January.
“I am comfortable with the report at this point,” Hill told the Associated Press. “I am not concerned with any misuse of public funds. Now the issue is should something else be done. But we can’t do anything until the legislative session.”
The audit found that Perry received five reimbursement payments during the review period — September 2013 to August 2016 — including two payments from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare for attending a November 2013 addiction recovery conference with Guthrie and other legislators. The other three payments to Perry were for annual legislative session travel.
The audit investigated 56 payments to Guthrie for hotel rooms, gas mileage and meals during the legislative sessions. He also received three reimbursements from state agencies.
The auditors pointed out that Guthrie claimed he attended a meeting of the Committee on Employee Compensation and the Public Defense Reform Interim Committee — both on Jan. 7.
However, while auditors confirmed the Committee on Employee Compensation meeting happened Jan. 7, the Public Defense Reform Interim Committee did not meet on that day.
The auditors stated that Guthrie was possibly over-reimbursed for one night of lodging considering that the meeting was only held on Jan. 7 and he also overpaid his hotel bill by about $20.
For the trip, Guthrie asked for reimbursement for three nights lodging, Jan. 6 to 8 at $100.57 per night, and for $85.50 in meals on Jan. 6 and 7. He was also reimbursed $270 in mileage occurring Jan. 6 and 9. Guthrie requested and received about $20 extra in reimbursement for the trip — an amount the auditors noticed and flagged.
Hill defended Guthrie, saying Guthrie’s extra time in Boise was spent cleaning up his office for the legislative session, which started later that month. Other legislators do the same, Hill said.
“It was a legitimate expense,” Hill said. “It is something we do all the time in the Legislature.”
Hill added he is pleased with the audit and has no problem reviewing legislators’ reimbursements.
Though the audit makes the information readily available, it does not come with any recommendations regarding further action.
Only lawmakers can request a formal ethics investigation against another lawmaker, and there have been no reports that any lawmaker has requested such an investigation regarding the alleged Guthrie-Perry affair.
Ethics complaints are not public until the ethics committee determines the complaint has merit, and no state laws define what actions constitute unbecoming conduct.
In Idaho, adultery is considered a felony offense; however, it is rarely prosecuted. Critics believe the pair violated their oaths to Idahoans and have failed to uphold the state’s Constitution and laws by way of the alleged sexual affair.
There has been lots of speculation whether Guthrie will resign, fueled by the fact he has not made a statement since news of the scandal broke.
Perry has released a statement denying the extent of the allegations made by Earl. She has given no indication that she plans on resigning.
Guthrie and Perry are facing challengers in the November election. The two currently hold legislative leadership positions, with Perry overseeing the House Ways and Means Committee and Guthrie serving as vice chair of the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee. Those positions will be re-evaluated by legislative leadership at the start of the 2017 session.
The Idaho-Press Tribune and Associated Press contributed to this story.
This story was published in the Idaho State Journal. It is used here with permission.