Canyon County

As a legislator, he sexually harassed a staffer. Now he seeks to join Caldwell council

The history of sexual harassment in America: 5 things to know

Just like many movements for equal rights in America, the path for women to seek recourse from sexual harassment has been through the courts. But grassroots activism in the 1970s opened the space for a nationwide conversation, and the Civil Right
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Just like many movements for equal rights in America, the path for women to seek recourse from sexual harassment has been through the courts. But grassroots activism in the 1970s opened the space for a nationwide conversation, and the Civil Right

Former Idaho state Sen. John McGee, who resigned in 2012 after accusations that he propositioned a female staffer, wants to be a member of the Caldwell City Council.

McGee said in a phone interview Monday that he has “certainly learned” from his mistakes and that he’s been “apologetic all the way” after paying a “pretty steep price” for his offenses.

He filed the paperwork to run on Friday, the deadline for making the Nov. 5 ballot.

McGee, now 46, went to jail for 39 days after he pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace in connection with the sexual harassment claim. He propositioned the staffer several times, including times when he grabbed her, when he asked her to perform oral sex on him, and when he locked the door to his legislative office in the Capitol and asked her to take her shirt off.

He was charged with felony assault and pleaded guilty to the lesser charge. The Associated Press reported at the time that the woman wanted to avoid a public trial that would accompany prosecuting a felony assault case.

That came just a few months after McGee pleaded guilty to drunken driving. McGee had been drinking at a golf course before stealing an SUV with a trailer, Ada County Sheriff’s Office officials said at the time. He then allegedly jack-knifed the SUV and the trailer in the yard of a home before getting out of the car, walking around, getting back into the car and going to sleep.

Barefoot, he told the owners of the home that he was looking for the “promised land.” When he was arrested, his blood alcohol content registered at 0.15%, almost twice Idaho’s legal limit of 0.08%. He spent Father’s Day 2011 in the Ada County Jail. Charges of felony theft and felony operation of a vehicle without consent were ultimately dropped, and McGee pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DUI.

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State Sen. John McGee, right, leaves the courtroom on in July 2011 with his attorney, Scott McKay, after pleading guilty in a plea agreement to driving under the influence of alcohol. Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman

At the time he resigned, McGee was the Senate Republican caucus chairman, having won the position again even after his DUI plea. Some state politicos at the time referred to McGee as “Boy Governor,” because he often seemed to have his eye on higher office.

McGee said Monday that he’s been deeply involved in the Caldwell community since leaving the state Senate, including positions as the chairman of the Downtown Caldwell Organization and vice president of Destination Caldwell, a nonprofit aiming to rebrand the city as a place to visit and live.

As a senator, he also wrote and promoted legislation that benefited the city, he said. McGee said he thought the people of Caldwell were focused on that instead of his wrongdoings.

“People in the community encouraged me to take this step,” he said. “They know the kind of things I did in the Idaho Senate, and they want to give me another chance.”

With his wife, Hanna, he now runs a firm called The McGee Group, which offers services in brand marketing, public relations and digital media.

Senator, councilor endorse him

McGee is running for Seat 6, one of three open seats on the City Council. He is challenging incumbent Chuck Stadick for a seat also sought by Evangeline Beechler, who ran unsuccessfully for Seat 3 on the council in 2017 and for state Senate in 2018. He said he is confident he can win.

In a Friday news release, McGee announced endorsements from both nine-term state Senator Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, and Caldwell City Councilwoman Shannon Ozuna, the only woman on the council. Ozuna’s seat, Seat 4, is on the ballot this year, but she is not seeking re-election.

“As a member of the Caldwell City Council, I know what it takes to keep Caldwell heading in the right direction,” Ozuna said in the release. “John has the skills, ability, and experience to continue moving Caldwell forward.”

McGee is a Caldwell native and has lived in the city almost his entire life, including attending Vallivue High School and The College of Idaho.

He laughed when asked if he eventually planned to return to state politics, saying he doesn’t know if he’d do that.

“I’ve been blessed to be able to help out in my community,” he said. “I’m really focused on serving my community for the time being.”

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State Sen. John McGee R-Caldwell, sits with his daughter, 2-year-old Madalyn McGee, in the Senate gallery before the end of the 2011 legislative session in April 2011. Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

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Hayley covers local government for the Idaho Statesman with a primary focus on Boise. Previously, she worked for the Salisbury Daily Times, the Hartford Courant, the Denver Post and McClatchy’s D.C. bureau. Hayley graduated from Ohio University with degrees in journalism and political science.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.
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