treasurer vault

The Idaho State Capitol was built around the state treasurer’s vault after it was delivered to the statehouse on a horse-drawn wagon.

The civil suit over office space at the Idaho Capitol will go before a judge at the end of this month, as Idaho's legislative leaders, who sued the state treasurer, ask the court if they can force the treasurer to vacate her space, writes Idaho Press reporter Tommy Simmons.

In June, House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, in their official capacities, filed suit against state Treasurer Julie Ellsworth. The lawmakers claimed Ellsworth was disobeying state statute when she refused to move the treasurer’s office from the Capitol at the Legislature's request, to make room for more offices for House members and staffers.

The Legislature didn’t designate funding for the new offices this past session, but Bedke and Hill contend that doesn’t matter — they cited a 2007 law allowing the Legislature to decide what is done with the Statehouse’s first, third, and fourth floors. The treasurer’s office is located on the first floor. Ellsworth’s refusal to obey their request constituted a violation of that law, they argue.

"The House suffers from a shortage of office and other space that hinders its members' ability to discharge their legislative duties," according to a motion filed by the legislators' attorneys on Friday. "Plaintiffs intend to use space on the first floor of the Capitol currently occupied by the treasurer's office to help alleviate this shortage."

Ellsworth, who is represented in the suit by David Leroy, a former Idaho attorney general, claims the location of her office is necessary for her and her staff members to do their job. The office is near a massive vault, Ellsworth said in a statement, which the treasurer’s office uses often. In addition to that, the legislators don’t have any ability to sue the treasurer in their official capacity, Leroy argued in a motion in August — that would require a resolution from both houses of Idaho’s government.

You can read Simmons' full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Tuesday's edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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