State Senator Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) underwent a conduct hearing on Monday, July 8 over comments he made seemingly threatening Senate Majority Leader Peter Courtney and the Oregon State Police. A bipartisan committee decided unanimously to require that Boquist give the Capitol 12 hours’ notice before entering the building, and to increase police security presence when he does so.
Boquist’s comments came during the lead up to the Republican walkout in June, when Governor Kate Brown stated that she would consider using the state police to retrieve any Senators who walked out of Salem. On the Senate floor, Boquist told Courtney “If you send the state police to get me, hell is coming to visit you personally.” He also seemingly threatened state police officers.
“This is what I told [OSP Superintendent Travis Hampton]: send bachelors and come heavily armed.” Boquist told a group of reporters. “I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.”
The committee wrangled for a while over how to proceed with Boquist, and after nearly a half dozen votes managed to agree on imposing on Boquist the 12 hours’ notice requirement and the corresponding increase in security.
Despite the indecision over the particulars of discipline, one member of the committee took a moment to put Boquist’s comments in context – Sen. James Manning, one of only two African-Americans in the Senate.
“If I had made those comments, I would have been drug out of the Capitol, at minimum.”
Republican members of the committee, like Sen. Alan Olsen (R-Canby), questioned how the committee could discipline Boquist without knowing who made complaints against him, and suggested an independent law firm’s findings that Boquist’s threats of violence were “credible” were mere opinion.
There were also concerns about the constitutional protections on Senators’ speech while on the floor. Oregon’s Constitution says that lawmakers can’t be questioned in “any other place” for “words uttered in debate in either house.” However, Boquist’s comments about state police officers were made in his office to reporters, so it is unclear how far this protection claim will stretch.
Boquist refused to answer questions from committee members because he recently filed a civil lawsuit against Courtney and others. The suit alleges that a lack of due process in the decision to act upon his comments, and claims the Senate leadership is blocking a public records request he has made.
“Whether Kate Brown and/or Peter Courtney issued troopers and illegal order will now be determined in a court of law,” Boquist said
By Ian MacRonald