State Politics

Idaho lawmakers’ affair: House inquiry results possible next week

Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, and Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon
Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, and Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon

Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke said Friday that he hopes to release a preliminary report next week showing whether a Nampa legislator improperly sought travel reimbursements while having an extramarital affair with a lawmaker from Southeast Idaho.

Bedke asked the Legislative Services Office to review the past three years of travel vouchers submitted by Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa. Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill on Thursday requested a similar examination of vouchers from Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon.

The inquiries came after a blogger reported this week that Perry, serving her third two-year term, and Guthrie, in his second term, were involved in an affair. Guthrie’s ex-wife, Barbara, disclosed the affair to Lance Earl, who reported it on his website Tuesday.

Earl ran unsuccessfully for a House seat as a Republican in 2014 in Guthrie’s district, losing to Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon.

WHAT THE LAWMAKERS SAY

Jim Guthrie admitted to having an affair during the Guthries’ divorce case in Bannock County last summer. He denied that was the reason for seeking a divorce. He said he and Barbara Guthrie “reconciled ... following the adulterous acts.”

In her court documents, Barbara Guthrie gave her account, which partly said that “Jim is having an affair with a woman who is also married and is also a member of the Idaho Legislature.”

Barbara Guthrie said she planned to call Perry and Perry’s husband as witnesses in the divorce trial. She also planned to file exhibits including text messages between Guthrie and Perry and cellphone records and a photograph “pertaining to [the] affair.” She asked the court to award her a larger share of the couple’s property, including their home and parcels of agricultural land.

The divorce was finalized in July.

A Bannock County deputy clerk said there were no transcripts of hearings from the trial, and the only exhibits filed were pictures of land parcels. On his blog, however, Earl described similar evidence, providing examples of texts reportedly sent between the lawmakers and mentioning “a decidedly vulgar, decidedly offensive” photo.

Attempts to reach the Guthries on Friday were not successful.

Perry issued a statement denying that she is engaged in an ongoing affair. Perry said she had gone through a “profound crisis,” turned to a colleague in the Idaho Legislature and “ultimately made a terrible mistake for which I am truly sorry.”

Perry filed for divorce in April, citing irreconcilable differences. The case was dismissed in June because the couple decided to reconcile, according to court records.

Perry said what happened took place about two years ago and that she told her husband, Matt, of the details. Perry said she and her husband have worked to mend their relationship and continue their 23-year marriage.

‘DUE DILIGENCE’

Bedke and Hill said they were unaware of any improprieties by either lawmaker in submitting travel vouchers.

“We’re doing our due diligence on behalf of the public to make sure the public’s funds were not improperly used or expended,” said Bedke, R-Oakley.

Since joining the House in 2010, Perry has received daily commuting mileage reimbursements but no other reimbursements, according to Terri Franks-Smith, chief fiscal officer for the Idaho House of Representatives.

Guthrie’s travel reimbursement records, obtained by the Statesman under a public records request, show Guthrie was reimbursed for lodging and meals in Boise for dates on and around scheduled legislative meetings. He also received commuting mileage reimbursements for travel during legislative sessions. The state paid for a trip Guthrie took to Moscow for a Catastrophic Health Care board meeting and a trip to Chicago in June 2015 for a National Conference of State Legislatures meeting.

In his blog post, Earl questioned whether state money had been paid on expenses while Perry and Guthrie spent time together.

“He brought it up and so I thought we need to find that out,” Hill said.

Bedke said he was saddened by the situation.

“No one likes to hear about these kinds of things,” he said. “Idaho legislators have the same challenges in their personal lives and family lives as many other Idahoans do, and they deal with them as best they can.”

Bedke noted Perry’s comments about working to save her marriage.

“I think we should all give them enough privacy and enough space to do that,” he said.

Both the House and Senate have procedures for dealing with ethical questions. Though there is no prohibition on romantic relationships between lawmakers, the incident could raise questions about whether the pair engaged in conduct unbecoming a legislator.

“If the members choose to avail themselves of that process, that’s certainly their prerogative,” Bedke said.

If it turns out Perry and Guthrie did not improperly receive any state money, some people may say that what people do in their private lives is their own business, said House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston. “When you’re a legislator or public official, it spills over into the public sphere, and people pay attention,” he said.

Neither Hill nor Bedke has heard that either lawmaker plans to resign. They said their colleagues have expressed support.

“At this point, we have accusations made by a recently divorced wife,” said Hill, R-Rexburg. “I’m not questioning the accusations, but I don’t know how accurate they are, either. I think as this plays out over the next few days, I think we’ll have a better feel for what the facts and circumstances actually were.”

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell

Audrey Dutton: 208-377-6448, @IDS_Audrey

Perry’s statement

“I was once experiencing a profound crisis in my life. During that time I turned to a friend in the legislature and ultimately made a terrible mistake for which I am truly sorry for.

“This occurred approximately two years ago and my husband was made fully aware of all details. Our decision was to face our problems head on.

“We have been actively seeking help and guidance for quite some time and are fully committed to our marriage of 23 years, our family and each other. It is our hope you can support us in our very personal decision.

“Unfortunately, someone has decided to use the past situation to launch a disgustingly brutal attack. Overall, it is NOT accurate and serves no positive purpose in the lives of the families involved or the political arena.

“I have worked incredibly hard in the Idaho legislature for my district and the state. I will let my reputation, my work on policy issues, my voting record and work ethic speak for me.”

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