BLACKFOOT — District Judge Darren Simpson made no ruling Thursday afternoon in the ongoing legal battle between the Idaho GOP and the Bingham County Republican Central Committee. The hearing was to determine if Bryan Smith would be removed as the Idaho GOP’s lawyer on the case.
Greg Chaney, acting on behalf of the Bingham County Republicans, said Smith was privy to information about the lawsuit before it was filed. They claimed Smith advised Matt Thompson, the newly-elected president of the BCRCC, whose election triggered the current dispute.
“(Thompson) said the complaint against the Bingham County Central Committee was the topic of conversation,” Chaney told the court.
Chaney also asserted Smith helped Dorothy Moon and the Idaho Republican Party “take steps” in response to the complaint based on the alleged conversation with Thompson.
“We do know there is some coordination, at least, between the Chairperson (Moon) and other members of the executive board … in carrying out some of these steps,” Chaney said. “We are entitled to … bear out our theory that Mr. Smith is a co-conspirator.”
The “coordination”, Chaney feared, would later be qualified under attorney-client privilege. He also argued it was likely Smith would be a material witness in the case because of that conversation and due to his leadership position in the Idaho GOP’s central committee.
As part of the committee, Smith will be on the review panel overseeing an internal hearing about Bingham County’s objection to Moon nullifying the election results. The BCRCC doesn’t feel he could be fair and impartial in that setting while acting as counsel for the Idaho GOP.
Smith made a heated argument in his defense, at one point calling the BCRCC’s motives into question.
“(The BCRCC) has all kinds of motivations other than conflict (of interest),” he said.
Smith says he didn’t know about the complaint until Dorothy Moon contacted him. He didn’t speak with Thompson, and had no evidence to be a witness about, he says.
“They can’t just make me a witness. I’d have to be one,” Smith said. “They have no evidence I was a witness. Their fear that (the Idaho GOP) is going to try to hide my involvement behind attorney-client privilege … is totally unfounded.”
Chaney noted there was a “difference in recollections” of the phone call, but Thompson had filed a statement saying it did happen.
Though Simpson made no ruling, he did take both arguments under advisement. A ruling is expected by Oct. 25.
This was the latest in a string of hearings in a lawsuit that stems from the BCRCC electing a new committee chairman. According to the Bingham County Republicans, Moon inappropriately used her power and authority to negate that election.
However, Moon has asserted the election was illegal and expressed her intent to nullify the election results and hold a new one.
As a result, Bingham County Republicans filed for and were granted a temporary restraining order and an injunction against state GOP leadership in September. The restraining order put a stop to any special meetings to hold new elections. It was upheld by the court on Oct. 10.