West Ada

Mayor Bieter hired his chief lobbyist for campaign while she still worked for Boise

Amber Pence, the City of Boise’s former chief lobbyist, was hired by and worked for Mayor David Bieter’s re-election campaign while still employed by the city.

Pence, who is a Democratic campaign veteran in both Idaho and Oregon, tendered her resignation to the city at the end of May, according to city spokesman Mike Journee. She then used her accrued vacation time, Journee said, with her final employment date June 28.

Bieter’s campaign manager, Robert West, said she was hired in June to work as the mayor’s chief fundraiser, a position she previously held under Bieter more than 10 years ago, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Pence had worked as Boise’s chief lobbyist since Sept. 2013 and was paid about $91,500 annually at the time of her resignation.

Journee said city code doesn’t bar employees from working on political campaigns on their own time.

“If she’s on vacation, she can do what she wants to do,” he said.

When asked if she was promised another job following November’s election, West said he wasn’t involved in those conversations, but, “No one has a job there unless we win. That’s what we’re focused on here.”

Campaign finance records show the four full-time employees of Bieter’s campaign are technically employees of the Idaho Democratic Party in order to receive health insurance, despite the fact that the mayoral office is nonpartisan.

But West said Pence has opted for more comprehensive and expensive health insurance for her family. She instead has continued to receive coverage through the city via COBRA, which is paid by the Bieter campaign, according to campaign finance records.

COBRA is a federal law mandating that employers allow eligible workers to stay on a health insurance plan after they resign or were laid off, with the employee bearing the full cost of coverage.

The Bieter campaign has paid $2,454.50 since July, the month after Pence officially resigned from the city, for COBRA coverage.

“We’re proud to provide our staff a living wage and benefits in a time when campaign staff are often underpaid and overworked,” West said in a statement, noting that campaign staffers wouldn’t be able to get health insurance if they had chosen a different payroll processor.

Idaho Democratic Party spokeswoman Lindsey Johnson said they charge the Bieter campaign $75 a month to process its payroll and have worked with more than a dozen campaigns in a similar capacity since 2014.

“The payroll system is how we make sure Democratic campaign workers have access to health care,” Johnson said in a statement.

When asked about whether it was appropriate for the state Democratic Party to be involved in what’s technically a nonpartisan race, she said, “We would provide payroll service to any of the mayoral or city council candidates who requested those services, even though the race is nonpartisan, as our job is to elect Democrats at every level of office.”

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