State senator splitting time, living in Idaho and Washington

Credit: Idaho Legislature

Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise

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by Jamie Grey

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBJamieGrey

KTVB.COM

Posted on September 9, 2013 at 10:30 AM

BOISE -- After concerns from some constituents, KTVB has uncovered Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, of District 18 is living part-time in Washington state. Records obtained show his wife is now employed as a teacher near Seattle.

After speaking with Senate leadership, KTVB has also learned there is no law or rule requiring state senators to live in their districts once elected.

"There are some statutes that talk a little bit about residency. The [state] Constitution talks about it a little bit. But we don't have any rules that apply for an elected official, an elected member of the Senate, after they've been elected," Senate President Pro Tempore Brent Hill said.

The Secretary of State's Office confirms it checks residency when someone files to declare candidacy to make sure someone is registered in the correct district, but not after that.

Sen. Durst says he will continue to serve, while splitting time

Neighbors observed Durst has not been around as often, and KTVB observed his home looked empty of furniture when stopping by to knock on the door last week.

On Friday, Durst was at his Boise home working in the yard and told KTVB he will continue to be the District 18 senator and explained he is living in Boise at least 50 percent of the time.

"I still have a bed and clothes all here. All my stuff's still here. Everything else is gone," Durst said.

Legislator residency issue brought up earlier this summer

Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, earlier was questioned for living outside of her district while building a new home on her property. She has since decided to move a mobile home on to that property, saying on the phone that she's "never tried to hide anything from anybody." She hopes to have her home in District 11 finished as soon as possible.

Durst said his reason for having his family split apart and living part-time in Washington is tied to the current state of Idaho's education system. He believes his situation is much different from Lodge's.

"There's a big difference between living out of your district for an entire year, and having a family member who is a teacher that doesn't get treated well because they live in Idaho and have to find employment someplace else. I think there's a big difference," Durst said.

Durst's follow-up statement regarding current service

Durst later clarified his current position in an email: "I am and will continue to be the state Senator from District 18. As any professional, I have looked beyond the borders of my legislative district for meaningful employment. However, I am committed to serving my constituents and have been doing so diligently. I am attending meetings on their behalf, conducting research, and keeping abreast of issues impacting District 18 and the state of Idaho. I look forward to continuing to serve my community in the legislature into the foreseeable future. Any discussions of ethics are simply an attempt to distract people from the real issues facing our state that I am attacking relentlessly head on."

Senate President Pro Tempore says situation worth investigating

Hill said he did not know of Durst's current living situation prior to KTVB informing him, but he plans to have a discussion with Durst soon to determine if he is in fact serving his constituents and the Senate as a whole well.

"It justifies some investigation. I'm certainly not in a position at this point to say that anything inappropriate is going on there. But it is an unusual situation, and we should look into it and make sure that Senator Durst's constituents are being served, as well as the interests of the Senate itself. And we'll have to go from there," Hill said.

Durst told KTVB his party leadership was familiar with his living arrangements. Assistant Minority Leader Senator Elliot Werk was the only senate Democrat leader who returned calls or emails, saying "I’m not privy to the exact nature of Senator Durst’s living arrangements." 

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