Hispanic Cultural Center Files Ethics Complaint Against Lisa Sánchez of Boise

“I am grateful for the work of the City of Boise Ethics Commission,” Sánchez wrote in an email. “The parties and I have reached an agreement, and I now submit that the matter has been resolved.”

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Documents filed with the Ethics Commission indicate that Gomez donated a portrait she painted of Sánchez to the Hispanic Cultural Center in June 2021. Its estimated value is $2,000. Sanchez reportedly asked to borrow the portrait in August 2021 for a city council campaign fundraiser scheduled for September 16. The Hispanic Cultural Center says she has been approved to borrow the painting, but only on the condition that it be returned on September 17.

In March 2022, the Hispanic Cultural Center said Sanchez refused to return it “because she implied that since it is her image, she has the right to own it and felt that HCCI did not deserve the ‘have in their possession.’

In Gomez’s file with the city, she recalls reminding Sánchez that the painting belonged to the Hispanic Cultural Center and that permission from the organization was needed to keep the painting. Gomez says she told Sánchez to write a letter to the Hispanic Cultural Center explaining why she should be able to keep the painting, which Gomez would co-sign with her. But, when Gomez never received a letter to co-sign, she told the ethics committee she assumed the painting had been returned.

“In January 2022, I found out she still hadn’t returned the painting to the Hispanic Cultural Center,” Gomez wrote to the ethics commission.

Conclusions of the Ethics Commission

Boise’s code of ethics prevents officials from knowingly using his official position for financial gain, but the Hispanic Cultural Center and Gomez said Sánchez voluntarily lent the painting.

City ethics rules also prevent officials from accepting any gift of value from any person or company with an interest in city affairs. But, there is an exception for public servants who accept contributions and services in connection with a campaign. Since the painting was loaned for a campaign event, Sánchez’s activities fall within this exception.

The ethics commission also found there was “no basis” for the claim that the Hispanic Cultural Center is interested in doing business with the city, meaning that even if Sánchez was not campaigning , she could still accept gifts from the organization. The commission also concluded that there was no reason to claim that accepting gifts, if the painting could be considered a “precious gift”, from the Hispanic Cultural Center would impact Sánchez’s impartiality in as a politician.

“Again, the investigations do not appear to question the painting’s original loan to Sanchez,” the ethics commission wrote in its decision. “However, to the extent that the investigations claim the loan constituted a gift of value, the loan falls within the express campaign exception to the ban on gifts of value to city officials.”

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