State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth has been sued by legislators in a dispute over office space in the State Capitol.
House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill filed suit against Ms. Ellsworth in response to a disagreement over office space on the first floor of the Capitol building in Boise. State representatives currently work in cubicles with temporary walls, which they claim do not provide sufficient security or privacy to conduct business with constituents. Lawmakers passed a bill in March to expand offices for legislators and staff on the first floor – in the process, displacing the State Treasurer’s office.
Ms. Ellsworth disagreed with the action and refused to vacate the first floor. Mr. Bedke and Mr. Hill filed suit on behalf of the legislature to have a judge determine who controls the space.
In the lawsuit and media statements, Mr. Bedke and Mr. Hill held that under Idaho law, the legislature has the exclusive right to determine how the Capitol’s first floor is used. The law was passed in 2007 during an earlier renovation of the state house. The legislators see Ms. Ellsworth’s move as an affront to the legislative branch’s power by the treasurer, who is an appointed member of the executive branch.
“The Idaho State Treasurer refuses to acknowledge the right of the legislative department to determine the control of office space on the first floor of the Capitol and has refused to vacate,” the lawsuit said.
In a press release, Ms. Ellsworth said the office renovations would be a waste of taxpayer money, saying the offices would be used only three months out of the year. In contrast, the treasurer’s office the renovations would displace are used year-round by treasury staff. She said her office had proposed alternatives to the renovation, including sharing office space in the building, but was instead met with a lawsuit.
“I have always opposed this move and I am shocked at the continued wasteful use of taxpayer dollars to build new legislative offices that will be used for just three months of the year,” Ms. Ellsworth said. “This is not a friendly lawsuit and I plan to vigorously defend the taxpayers of Idaho and combat this frivolous use of their dollars.”