BOISE — An attorney representing the Idaho state treasurer in a lawsuit against two state lawmakers filed a motion Wednesday, asking a judge to dismiss the case.
In June, House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, in their official capacities as lawmakers, filed suit against state Treasurer Julie Ellsworth. The suit stems from efforts by the Idaho Legislature to appropriate money for building more offices for lawmakers and staff. While the effort was unsuccessful, it would have required the Treasurer’s Office to move from its location on the first floor of the Statehouse, where it has been for more than 100 years.
According to the suit the two lawmakers filed against her, Ellsworth refused to comply with the Legislature’s authority. This, the suit claims, cut against a 2007 law reading, “The legislative department shall determine the use of the space on the first, third and fourth floors.”
The two lawmakers in June told the Idaho Press they are less concerned about the construction of the offices themselves, and are more worried about what they perceive as a lack of adherence to the law.
“This is stupid,” Ellsworth is quoted as saying in a Wednesday press release. “I am a taxpayer too, but first and foremost I am the elected constitutional officer duty-bound to protect the state’s banking functions for all our citizens and agencies. We use our huge vault and central location here at the Statehouse to do just that on a year-round basis including those nine months when the Legislature is not in session.”
In a memorandum filed Wednesday, former Idaho Attorney General David Leroy, who is representing Ellsworth, said Bedke and Hill didn’t have legal standing to bring the lawsuit without a resolution from both houses of Idaho government; they sued Ellsworth in their official capacity, not as private citizens.
Until the Legislature does authorize the suit, Leroy wrote, “this matter is not ripe for judicial review.”
Leroy also argued in the motion that the Legislature, part of the legislative branch, doesn’t have the authority to dictate where the treasurer, part of the executive branch, can or cannot have an office.
Fourth District Court Judge Nancy Baskin has yet to rule on the motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
“A turf war inside the people’s house is never good news for the taxpayer,” Leroy wrote in a press release. “...Frankly I am still hoping that the public outcry and due reflection will cause these two responsible, respected legislative leaders to withdraw their lawsuit, even before the court rules on this motion.”