The special Senate Ethics Committee probe into New Plymouth Republican Sen. Monty Pearce's alleged conflict of interest on oil and gas legislation has been dialed up a notch or two.
This morning, the panel received a revised complaint that said Pearce's personal lease with an oil and gas exploration company provided more than a pecuniary interest and that the investigation should also consider any personal interest.
"In our case, the good senator [Pearce] found himself in a conflict. He had an obligation to his district to disclose," said Boise Democratic Sen. Les Bock. "He made a decision to vote, more than once [on oil and gas legislation] and he didn't reveal his conflict."
Bock told the six-member bipartisan committee that he had extensive knowledge in conflict-of-interest matters, in his previous role as counsel to the Albertsons Corporation and having testified before the Idaho Bar on several occasions regarding conflicts.
"We only have to look at Nov. 4th, when [Pearce] signed an oil lease with a primary proponent of House Bill 464," said Bock. "He signed a deal with the very oil company that participated in drafting the legislation. If this doesn't present a conflict, I don't know what does. This is what I would call a primal example of a conflict of interest. It should have been disclosed on day one."
When committee member Coeur d'Alene Republican Sen. Jim Hammond questioned Bock on the balance between Pearce's interests and the interests of a much wider group of his constituents who may consider signing similar leases, Bock didn't back away from his argument.
"The good senator came down on the side of expanding his personal interest through the exploration of his property for natural gas or petroleum against the interests of Payette County," said Bock. "He ignored the interests of Payette County when he was casting his votes both in committee and on the floor of the Senate."