WASHINGTON – The House Page Board is looking at allegations made against retiring Rep. Jim Kolbe about a 1996 camping trip Kolbe hosted for his staff, in which two former House pages were invited to attend.
FOX News confirmed last week that the Justice Department is investigating the trip, in which the two pages joined five members of Kolbe's staff. The pages paid their own way on the trip. Kolbe's younger sister, Beth Kolbe, also attended the trip and said nothing untoward occurred there.
The Page Board took no action Tuesday, but could call Kolbe back to Washington to speak to board members.
As the House ethics committee reviews the failure of lawmakers to end inappropriate conduct between former Rep. Mark Foley and former House pages, the House Page Board has been swamped by stories about various members.
Monday's review occurred a week after it was first brought to the attention of the five-member board last Monday, said Michigan Rep. Dale Kildee, a Democratic Page Board member. Kildee declined to identify the member to FOX News but said the board wasn't able to act upon the information until this week.
Kildee said the board talked to the member and passed the allegations on "to the proper authorities." He confirmed that the meeting did not have anything to do with allegations about Foley, who resigned from Congress Sept. 29 after a news agency questioned him about overly friendly e-mail exchanges with a former House page.
"It was about other allegations and I'd like to leave it at that," he said. "Let me just say, not about Mr. Foley. It's only been allegations."
Kolbe, R-Ariz., took the former pages as well as staff members and National Park Service officials on a Fourth of July rafting trip in the Grand Canyon in 1996, his spokeswoman Korenna Cline said last week.
A federal law enforcement official said last week an allegation related to the trip was given to the U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix. It was not immediately clear whether it concerned any contention of improper activity by Kolbe. The official described the inquiry as preliminary and far narrower in scope than the federal investigation into Foley.
A second law enforcement official said the 1996 Kolbe trip may be too old to investigate as a criminal matter. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined comment.
The congressional page program is comprised of teenagers nominated by lawmakers to serve as errand-runners and receive firsthand experience with the legislative process. The high school students also attend classes at a congressional school.
Kildee has served on the Page Board for 21 years. He was the last of three witnesses to appear before the House ethics committee on Monday to give sworn testimony on how the House leaders handled the complaint against Foley by a former page sponsored by Louisiana Rep. Rodney Alexander.
The other two witnesses included Alexander Chief of Staff Royal Alexander, who has no family relation to the lawmaker, and Danielle Savoy, a former Alexander staffer who was forwarded the e-mails that sparked the inquiry.
On Tuesday, House Sergeant at Arms Wilson "Bill" Livingood, best known for his starring role on State of the Union nights when he announces "Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States, also spoke to the panel for an hour and a half.
Livingood is also on the Page Board along with Republican Reps. John Shimkus and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and the House clerk. Former clerk Jeff Trandahl was expected to speak to the ethics committee on Tuesday, but his interview was postponed likely until Thursday.
Earlier in the day, the ethics panel, for three hours, questioned Paula Nowakowski, chief of staff to House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
After Livingood left, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, a member of the four-person investigating subcommittee, headed out the door and told FOX News that she is flying home, and will not be available for testimony Wednesday. Rep. Alexander is expected back at the panel.
Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., another panelist also did not say whether she would be at Wednesday's testimony. However, as long as two committee members are present, a witness may be required to give sworn testimony. Panel Chairman Doc Hastings of Washington and the committee's ranking member, Howard Berman of California both will be present.
Shimkus testified before the ethics committee last week, and told reporters he was following the wishes of the parents of a Louisiana page when he decided not to inform Capito and Kildee.
Capito also has expressed concern that she was not informed, and her Democratic opponent has accused her of failing teenagers in Congress' care.