Regarding censure of Bonner County Commissioners.

On Tuesday evening, September 19, 2023 the majority of the members of the Bonner County Republican Central Committee voted against the censure of Bonner County Commissioners Steven Bradshaw and Luke Omodt. The vote for commissioner Omodt was 22-7 against censure, and for Bradshaw it was 11-18.

The censure vote involved the new Idaho Republican party rules under Article XX adopted by the party in June 2023. Under the rules, when at least 20% of the members a county committee bring a petition alleging violations by elected representatives of the state or federal constitutions or the Republican party platform, the county committee is authorized to censure the elected representatives in a process to bring those representatives back into conformance with key principles of the constitution or values held by the party. The original petition against commissioner Bradshaw can be found here, and against commissioner Omodt here.

Article XX Section 3. County Central Committees are hereby empowered to call into question the conduct of a Republican elected official; give fair consideration to alleged violations and provide a meaningful opportunity for the official to be heard; determine if substantive violations of Party Platform or Constitutions have occurred; provide censure and/or guidance upon the first determination of substantive violations; 

The adoption of Article XX into state party rules was approved by the Idaho Republican party’s state central committee in June 2023. The BCRCC delegation on the state central committee supported the addition of Article XX to the Idaho Republican Party rules. The enactment of Article XX closely followed the Bonner County Republican Central Committee’s vote of No Confidence in both commissioners Bradshaw and Omodt in May 2023. The details of our No Confidence vote just a few months ago can be found here.

In the BCRCC’s deliberation of September 19, one committee member stated that if the commissioners didn’t respond with a change of behavior after our No Confidence vote, then they were unlikely ro reform after a vote to censure.

It was stated during deliberations that the single platform violation cited in the petition was a mismatch to the actual conduct of the commissioners. Petitioners cited Article II Section 1 which states that “We encourage all citizens to educate themselves in constitutional government and to be full participants in the political process.” Article XX charges a county central committee to determine if their was a substantive violation of the cited platform provision by the commissioners. The cited Section 1 speaks more to the encouragement and duty of citizens, not elected representatives. Section 2 of the same platform article would have been more on point as to the duty of elected representatives.

Article II Section 2 reads “We seek to heighten the level of discourse by encouraging all office holders, candidates and citizens to be civil, dignified, honest and forthright in their discussions, actons, statements and politcal processes.” Article XX does not authorize a county committee to amend a petition already submitted, especially since the purpose of the censure process is to give elected representatives notice so that they can defend their actions or work with the central committees at improvement. Central committees cannot add allegations later since due process would then not be afforded to the elected representatives.

The petitioners also alleged violations by the two commissioners of Article I Sections 2 and 10 of the Idaho constitution.

Art. 1, Section 2. POLITICAL POWER INHERENT IN THE PEOPLE. All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform or abolish the same whenever they may deem it necessary; and no special privileges or immunities shall ever be granted that may not be altered, revoked, or repealed by the legislature.

Art. 1, section 10 – ARTICLE I DECLARATION OF RIGHTS, Section 10. RIGHT OF ASSEMBLY. The people shall have the right to assemble in a peaceable manner, to consult for their common good; to instruct their representatives, and to petition the legislature for the redress of grievances.

In deliberations by committee members it was stated that an allegation of violations of the US Constitution 1st amendment’s right to free speech would have been more consistent with the conduct of the commissioners and should have been included in the petition.

Also cited in the original petitions were allegations of violations by the two commissioners of Idaho Code, Bonner County ordinances and Repubican party rules. These could not be considered by the committee because Article XX only empowers a central committee to consider platform and constitutional violations. The committee is not authorized to provide a remedy to violations of county ordinances or state law.

Article XX starts with a censure process in an effort to afford a defense to elected representatives or to restore the representative’s conduct to constitutional and platform principles. If violations by the elected representatives continues after censure, then Article XX provides a process by which Republican party identification can be stripped of those elected representatives when they run for re-election and for 5 years onward.

Any decisions we make under the new Article XX carry legal consequences for our party organization and for the reputation of our county committee and the tool of censure. According to the rule’s author, Article XX is specifically designed to be used against elected representatives whose voting records are clearly out of line with significant party values and principles.

The BCRCC’s vote against censure under Article XX should not be taken as an endorsement of the recent conduct of the Bonner County Commissioners in question. It also does not imply the committee’s support for these elected representatives. According to many BCRCC members, the commissioners’ conduct over the past several months has been deplorable, and their ability to conduct county business in a respectful manner has been absent. The BCRCC’s vote of No Confidence from May clearly conveyed the committee’s dissatisfaction, and unfortunately not much has changed.

The best remedy for poor representation is to run strong candidates as an alternative in the next election. The Bonner County Republican Central Committee has an active vetting and rating process for candidates. Both of these commissioners are up for re-election at the May 21, 2024 Republican party primary election. If their representation does not change in the next several months, it is likely the BCRCC will endorse candidates against them; Republican candidates that will adhere more closely to the platform and the laws and that will conduct business with the public in a more respectful manner.

Article IX of the Idaho Republican Party rules authorize county committees to take positions on candidates running even in primary elections. In our uni-party state this is more important than ever because their is nothing that stops liberals and progressives from otherwise identifying as Republicans and attempting to deceive traditional conservative Republicans at primary election time.

The Bonner County Republican Central Committee earns the voter’s trust by following the rule of law and when we can explain actions we take and why we support one candidate over another. We look forward to continuing to engage in these conservative Republican efforts.

Scott Herndon
Chair, Bonner County Republican Central Committee.