News » Unda' the Rotunda

The Law and John McGee

Former senator will answer to his wife, state police and attorney general (but not necessarily in that order)


Senate Bill 1314 isn't landmark legislation--not by a long shot. The measure is only one of hundreds of proposed laws being considered by the 2012 Idaho Legislature. Reading SB 1314, relating to the "prudent management of institutional funds" and amending Section 33-5004 of Idaho Code, could quickly rid someone of insomnia. But SB 1314 will be memorialized as the last piece of 2012 legislation voted on by ex-Caldwell Republican Sen. John McGee.

By the time that McGee had cast his "yes" vote for the measure on the afternoon of Feb. 21, he and only a handful of others knew that it would be his final appearance on the floor of the Idaho Senate, perhaps forever. (For the record, lawmakers voted unanimously to pass the bill, which has been sent to the House for consideration.)

In fact, between Feb. 18, when Republican leadership first heard of alleged sexual misconduct charges against McGee, and his resignation four days later, McGee voted on 16 pieces of legislation, ranging from liability protections for employees facilitating state executions to the much-discussed ban of texting while driving. McGee voted "yes" on all.

"[On Feb 18], the Majority Leader [Idaho Falls Sen. Bart Davis] and I were first notified of confidential allegations of sexual harassment involving Sen. McGee," said Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill in a hastily arranged Feb. 22 media briefing.

Hill said that a Senate attache had confided to the Senate secretary that the attache had been a victim of sexual harassment from McGee. Davis confirmed that the alleged incident (or incidents) occurred during the 2012 legislative session, long after McGee had sidestepped from a possible felony charge following a bizarre Father's Day 2011 drunk-driving escapade, which some had believed would be the political undoing of the Canyon County lawmaker.

McGee confessed to drinking way too much on June 19, 2011--his blood-alcohol level measured nearly double the legal driving limit--and then taking a stranger's SUV and trailer, crashing the vehicle onto the front lawn of a residence. When confronted at the scene, McGee reportedly made a series of bizarre statements to police, including that he was "on his way to the promised land" or perhaps was "driving to Jackpot, Nev."

Facing the possibility of a felony charge of grand theft auto that, if convicted, could have stripped him of his right to vote, McGee's political career hung in the balance. But less than two weeks later, McGee emerged from an Ada County courtroom after cutting a deal that he would not spend any additional time behind bars (other than the few hours following his bust).

"I hope to win back the trust of those that I have disappointed," sniffled McGee.

In the weeks leading up to the beginning of the 2012 legislative season, McGee agreed to a select few interviews.

"One of the things I can do is to be a responsible role model in my actions," said McGee on KTVB Channel 7.

Throughout the televised interview, he spoke in hushed tones about how difficult the June 2011 episode was for him and his family and how anxious he was to "move forward."

But according to one female Senate staffer, some of McGee's moves were more than forward; they were inappropriate.

"The attache was not a minor," confirmed Hill. "She has been reassigned and is currently on paid administrative leave."

At the Feb. 23 media briefing, Hill offered condolences to McGee's spouse.

"We express our compassion to John McGee's family and most particularly his wife," said Hill.

McGee repeatedly invoked his wife, Hanna, in his carefully selected interviews and even pointed to her presence in the Senate gallery on Jan. 11, as he spoke from the floor.

"I would submit today the Mother of the Year and the Wife of the Year to my wife, Hanna," said McGee. "I thank her and my family for being very, very patient over the last several months, as I do all of you."

But McGee has to answer to quite a few more people than his wife. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden wasted no time in launching a full review of the sexual harassment allegations.

"[The attorney general] will continue to conduct a review," said Hill, who also confirmed that if McGee had opted not to resign, he would have faced an internal probe. "Yes, we would have considered an ethics committee to further investigate the situation."

Davis, one of the few attorneys in the Idaho Legislature, balked when asked his opinion on whether criminal charges were pending.

"I'm just a country lawyer," said Davis.

But a city lawman, in particular, Idaho Police Director Col. Jerry Russell, went to the Idaho Capitol to confer with Wasden.

"ISP is currently conducting a preliminary investigation to determine if any criminal laws have been violated," said Russell in a formal statement.

Yet another public statement was released on Feb. 24 by officials at West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell, where McGee serves as marketing director.

"We take this allegation very seriously," said the statement. "We ask others to join us in respecting due process as the attorney general forges his investigation."

Hill was quick to remind the press that McGee denied the allegations.

"Sen. McGee does not admit any wrongdoing," he said. "We discussed a variety of options. It was his decision [to resign]."

When asked about further action from the Senate, Hill's voice softened.

"I don't want to go there."