Today's ad hoc subcommittee hearing called by the Legislature's Executive Board may be a wash. The two key legislators pushing for an investigation of the GOP House leadership for violations of confidentiality, Reps. Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs) and Stace Nelson (R-25/Fulton), are declining to attend the hearing, which is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. today at the Capitol in Pierre.

In letters sent yesterday to subcommittee chair Senator Joni Cutler, Reps. Russell and Nelson both complain that Sen. Cutler has not yet offered any response to their motion for subpoenas of Legislative Research Council director Jim Fry, LRC staff lawyer Reuben Bezpaletz, and former LRC staffer Jacqueline Storm. Without the guarantee of testimony from those individuals, Rep. Russell sees little point in rearranging his schedule to drive to Pierre today:

I am certain you can empathize with my situation in light of my belief that you are rushing a matter that has not been dealt with for more than six months, where discovery has repeatedly been denied, where the Chair of the subcommittee does not plan on even calling the first-hand witnesses who are present in the very building that the subcommittee is scheduled to meet and who provided the information to me, and where I have not even had the courtesy of a response to a formal written motion.

Thank you for your consideration. Should you continue to desire my hearsay testimony after you have heard from the LRC eye witnesses, I will be available at the above telephone number after 1:00 p.m. central standard time on January 3, 2012 [Rep. Lance Russell, letter to Sen. Joni Cutler, 2012.01.02].

Rep. Nelson expresses similar misgivings about heading to Pierre for what he considers an illegitimate deviation from the formal House rules for investigation of allegations of misconduct. He says the subcommittee hasn't even made clear which specific complaints are being investigated:

I provided NUMEROUS documents to include detailed written complaints about several incidents to include detailed complaints that Rep. Turbiville ordered ongoing obstruction of my bill research. Are you investigating that? If so, how is it not grossly unethical for you to consult with him on these matters or for Rep. Turbiville to remain involved with this investigation?! House Leadership assured me those complaints were received, being investigated, & they would ensure were addressed via this process as recently as Rep. Lust asserting as such on December 27th, 2011, in public. Please identify within those complaints what actual specific incidents you are investigating, if any, and if any require additional information from me.

Please advise what the purpose is of your investigation to include what the information will be used for. Please advise what the scope of the investigation is to include what specifically is being investigated; what if any is each legislator's required attendance or duties in this hearing; what the consequences are for any persons refusing to testify or providing fraudulent information or testimony; what are the procedures for legislators to obtain known evidence within the LRC; the procedures for introducing & requiring known witness testimony as well as the procedure to require disclosure of documentary evidence [Rep. Stace Nelson, letter to Senator Joni Cutler, 2012.01.02].

Senator Cutler may not have responded to the subpoena request all week, but she managed to fire off a reply to Rep. Russell right away asking him to stick with the process:

There are both procedural and legal reasons for addressing those issues in this manner. My hope is that you would refrain from drawing conclusions about what you think I intend to do in the hearing as you risk inaccuracy in so doing. That is one of the huge drawbacks in trying to assess this through email and letters and why it is preferable, in fairness to everyone, to handle all of this in an open meeting and on the record with witnesses personally present.

We really need your cooperation and presence so that we can have the type of dialog that will help us work toward a proper resolution. We would be happy to meet into the evening if that would help you come to Pierre [Senator Joni Cutler, letter to Rep. Lance Russell, 2012.01.02].

I appreciate Sen. Cutler's stated commitment to an open process. But I can also appreciate Rep. Russell's and Rep. Nelson's hesitance to trek to Pierre simply to repeat what's already been said in a somewhat fuzzy process. The legislators' complaints about abuse of LRC confidentiality are publicly documented: resolution seems to hinge now on hearing substantiation of those complaints from the firsthand witnesses, the LRC staff who would have experienced the alleged abuses of power. Senator Cutler could satisfy the complainants and the public with one simple response: "Fry, Bezpaletz, Storm—yup, they'll be there."

Inside Snark Bonus: No word yet on the opinion rendered by Rep. Kristin Conzet's hairdresser.