State Politics

Two red flags out of 38 payments in audit of lawmakers’ travel

Rep. Christy Perry, left, and Sen. Jim Guthrie
Rep. Christy Perry, left, and Sen. Jim Guthrie

A review of three years of travel reimbursements for two Idaho legislators embroiled in controversy over an affair found two possible overpayments but no other evidence of misuse of public funds.

House and Senate leaders ordered the reviews last week after a conservative Eastern Idaho blogger reported that Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, and Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, had been involved in an affair.

“We’re doing our due diligence on behalf of the public to make sure the public’s funds were not improperly used or expended,” House Speaker Scott Bedke said at the time.

The audit looked at all travel expenses reimbursed between Sept. 1, 2013, and Aug. 1, 2016.

Auditors at the state Legislative Services Office concluded that two travel-related payments made to Perry were both properly made, according to their report released Friday.

But they couldn’t verify that one of 35 travel payments for Guthrie, for an extra night in Boise after a committee meeting, had any relation to state business and said it might have been an improper reimbursement. For another night on that three-night trip, Guthrie was reimbursed about $20 more than he actually paid the hotel, auditors found.

The possible improper reimbursement totals $121.14.

Bedke was attending a conference for House speakers from legislatures across the country in Burlington, Vt., on Friday. In a phone call, he told the Statesman that he skimmed the audit report on his phone while on a tour bus in Montpelier.

“I was pretty confident when we started the audit that there was nothing to find there,” he said in regard to Perry. “But that’s what we have the audit for. When we’re dealing with public funds, it’s got to be very transparent.”

Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill told The Associated Press that Guthrie said the extra day was spent organizing the senator’s Boise office while preparing for this year’s legislative session. Senators are not required to keep detailed reasons why they are requesting reimbursements, but are encouraged to do so.

“I am comfortable with the report at this point,” Hill told the AP. “I am not concerned with any misuse of public funds. Now the issue is should something else be done. But we can’t do anything until the legislative session.”

In a statement last week, 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.” Guthrie admitted to having an affair during a divorce last summer, according to court records.

Both lawmakers are seeking re-election and face Democratic opponents. Perry oversees the House Ways and Means Committee and Guthrie serves as vice chair of the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller

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