Sen. Durst, reporter Richert in tweeted bird fight over Durst’s late roosting

Sen. Branden Durst showed up about 20 minutes late for the second meeting of the Idaho Legislature’s K-12 Educational System Interim Committee at the Capitol Wednesday.

The Boise Democrat’s absence was noted by Kevin Richert, a former Statesman editorial page editor who joined the online startup Idaho Education News in January. The interim committee is comprised of two Democrats and eight Republicans.

Durst’s family has moved to Washington state, where his wife has a teaching job. Durst has rebuffed calls for him to resign. He says he is attending to his part-time legislative duties while splitting his time between Idaho and Washington.

Meanwhile, Durst has questioned the credibility of Idaho Education News, alleging it is advancing the agenda of GOP Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and the website’s funder, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.

About 20 minutes into the 9 a.m. meeting, Richert tweeted: “One no-show at today’s #idleg meeting: Sen. @brandendurst. Durst has been spending part of his time in Wash. state, where his wife teaches.”

Two minutes later, Richert tweeted: “@brandendurst has arrived for #idleg interim committee meeting.”

Two minutes after that, Durst caught up to the speedier Richert, replying:  “@KevinRichert Sorry, to disappoint you, Kevin. I guess your @TomLuna /@jkaf_foundation agenda will actually have to be held accountable.”

Replied Richert: “Just reporting what I see. And updating as events change. Have a good day.”

Five minutes after that, Durst seemed to question his power to hold Luna, the Foundation and Richert accountable, tweeting his doubts about whether the meeting was worth his time away from the Evergreen State: “At the K-12 Interim Cmte meeting. Really don’t see the purpose. 1st meeting wasn’t terribly valuable, we’ll see if #2 is any better.”

The J.A. and Kathyrn Albertson Foundation is a close ally of Luna. In a late July op-ed, Durst questioned the editorial independence of IEN and alleged Luna would “likely” take a job with a for-profit education company and forgo a run for a third term in 2014.

That brought a reply a few days later from IEN  Editor Jennifer Swindell, another Statesman alum, who defended IEN’s editorial integrity in a guest opinion in the Statesman. The piece was co-written by Richert and a second IEN reporter, Clark Corbin, a former reporter for the Idaho Falls Post-Register.

The interim committee is scheduled to work until 4:15 p.m. Wednesday and has scheduled a third meeting for Nov. 5. To listen live click here.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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