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Eye On Boise

Homeowner’s exemption to rise for second year, after four years of declines…

The homeowner's exemption from property tax will rise to a maximum of $89,580 in 2015, up from the current $83,920. That reflects a 6.74 percent increase in Idaho housing prices, and marks the second year of increases after four years of declines. Click below for the full announcement from the Idaho State Tax Commission. The homeowner's exemption reduces taxes on an owner-occupied home by exempting up to half of its value, with the maximum exemption adjusting each year based on the Idaho House Price Index. Lawmakers tied the exemption to the index in 2006.

Jones, Ybarra to debate three times this week, in Twin Falls, Caldwell and Boise Edit

Jana Jones and Sherri Ybarra, the two candidates to be Idaho’s next state schools chief, will face off in three debates this week, Clark Corbin of Idaho Education News reports. The first is tomorrow at 7 p.m. in Twin Falls, sponsored by the Twin Falls Times-News. The two face off again Thursday at 7 p.m. at the College of Idaho in a debate sponsored by the Caldwell Chamber of Commerce. Then, on Friday, they’ll debate in a forum sponsored by the City Club of Boise starting at 11:45 a.m. at the Grove Hotel.

Later, on Oct. 21, Jones and Ybarra will debate on statewide television as part of the “Idaho Debates,” co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho and broadcast on Idaho Public Television. Corbin’s full report is online here, including how to submit questions for this week’s face-offs.

Dems have hope in Idaho schools chief race, as Jones faces Ybarra

Conventional wisdom is that the Democrats’ best chance of capturing a statewide office in Idaho this year is the state school superintendent’s post. It’s an open seat in which the Republican nominee is a political newcomer with no statewide experience and the Democratic nominee is the former chief deputy state superintendent who almost beat current GOP Superintendent Tom Luna eight years ago.

So far, the race has been marked by a series of embarrassing revelations about Republican nominee Sherri Ybarra. Even Luna says Democrat Jana Jones could well win. He hasn’t endorsed either candidate in the race. Jones is running hard, but it’s an uphill climb for a Democrat in Idaho, as Republicans hold every statewide office, every seat in the congressional delegation and 80 percent of the state Legislature. You can read my full story here from Sunday’s Spokesman-Review.

Luna on Idaho’s next state superintendent: ‘I hope they’re bold’

Curious about his comments to the Times-News last week, I chatted today with state schools Superintendent Tom Luna about the race to replace him. Luna confirmed that he has not endorsed either candidate in the race – Republican Sherri Ybarra or Democrat Jana Jones.

“It’s likely or possible that a Democrat could win this race – I don’t think that’s news to anyone,” he said. Luna also said he met with GOP nominee Sherri Ybarra last week. “She ran a very non-traditional campaign in the primary. I’m assuming she’s taking a similar approach in the general,” Luna said. “But I will tell you that having met her and talked with her, I think she can win, but more people are going to have to get to know her the same way I have. And I’ve only got to know her recently.”

Luna compared Ybarra’s prospects to his own first run for the position, when he lost, but came back four years later and won, “because I had a network in place, I had name I.D. built.” He said, “It’s not uncommon for a Democrat to hold this position. … I don’t think anyone would assume that this will be a cake walk for a Republican.”

Luna, who has served two terms as state superintendent and is the first non-educator to hold the post, said, “I think I have accomplished a lot, and it hasn’t been without controversy, obviously. But I think we have accomplished a lot and I leave office pleased with the results that we’ve seen.” He pointed to improvements in technology in Idaho schools, high school students taking college-level courses, increasing numbers of charter schools, and changes in how teachers are compensated to include factors beyond education and years of experience. “I specifically ran on those things, and we’ve accomplished them,” Luna said. “The bottom line is by every academic measure, our schools and our students are doing better than they were eight years ago when I came into office.”

He said, “I hope the next state superintendent is looking to make a difference and not make a career. I hope they’re bold. I hope they’ll stand up to people that support them and work with people that don’t. It won’t be easy … but it’ll be the most rewarding experience of their life. That’s how I feel about my time in office.”

I’ll have a story on this year’s race for superintendent in Sunday’s Spokesman-Review.

Ysursa urges voters to register, marks National Voter Registration Month

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa is reminding voters that September is National Voter Registration Month, and urging them to be aware of deadlines for the upcoming Nov. 4 general election. “Participation is the essence of democracy, and I encourage all eligible voters to check their registration status online or with their county clerk before going to the polls in November,” Ysursa said.

His idahovotes.gov website allows voters from anywhere in the state to check their registration status and find their polling place. Anyone who is 18 or older, a U.S. citizen, and a resident in Idaho and in the county for 30 days prior to the election is eligible to vote. People who have recently moved or changed their name need to update their voter registration.

Ysursa noted that Idaho is one of eight states that offer same-day registration at the polls on Election Day. However, voters can save time at the polls by registering early. The deadline for early voter registration for the November election is Oct. 10. You can see Ysursa’s full announcement here.

Senate votes to back Obama on Syria; Risch, Crapo both vote ‘no’

The U.S. Senate has voted 78-22 in favor of President Obama's plan for the U.S. military to train and equip Syrian rebels for a war against Islamic state militants. Like yesterday's 273-156 House vote, support for the president's plan was bipartisan - but both Idaho's senators voted no, as did both of Idaho's congressmen yesterday. Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo issued these statements on their votes:

Risch:

“I have real reservations about choosing from over 200 different ethnic and religious groups within Syria and arming those that are labeled ‘moderate’ by some in our government. I am not convinced there is a group of ‘moderate’ rebels in Syria.  There is no easy choice here, but President Obama has not laid out a clear strategy, instead the strategy I have seen is not in my opinion destined to succeed, but drag us further into the mire.  I want to support a winning strategy, but I cannot support his $500 million proposal without a better plan.”

Crapo: 

“ISIS poses a very real threat to the United States and our national security. The President’s announced action leaves many questions for the American people and Congress.   Unless the Administration provides more details about a comprehensive strategy, I cannot support it.”

Click below for a full report from the AP in Washington, D.C.

 

Management review says state treasurer’s office has cleared up gas card, limo issues, finds no new problems

The office of state Treasurer Ron Crane received a clean bill of health in a new management audit out today from Idaho’s state auditor’s office. The new management review, which covers fiscal years 2011, ’12 and ’13, is a turnaround from the previous three-year report, which highlighted three concerns that state auditors reported to the Idaho Attorney General having to do with gas card purchases, staff time and state funds supporting a program that wasn’t specifically authorized by the Legislature, and travel costs for annual bond rating trips to New York, including the use of stretch limos to transport Idaho’s delegation there.

All three of those have been “satisfactorily closed,”  the new management audit reports.

Crane welcomed the new audit, saying, “I am extremely proud of our office and my staff!” which he said runs “a clean, efficient and smooth operation for the benefit of taxpayers in Idaho.” Said Crane, “We strive to provide the best service possible through innovation and to protect the state’s assets by applying prudent and ethical banking and investment practices.”

The gas card issue dealt with Crane charging nearly $8,000 on a state credit card for gas for his commutes from his Canyon County home to the Capitol; while auditors thought that violated the state’s travel policy, the Attorney General later found that it didn’t. Nevertheless, Crane stopped charging the state for gas for his commute, and now pays for his own.

The second finding involved the “Smart Money, Smart Women” conference that Crane’s office has been sponsoring annually around the state. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee now authorizes $10,000 in annual expenditures specifically for that conference in Crane’s budget.

The third, dealing with the New York trips, prompted changes in how travel costs are accounted for in the annual bond rating trips to New York. Also, Crane said the Idaho delegation now is transported in SUVs rather than stretch limos.

The three-year review is required by state law; the state Audits Division, which falls under the Idaho Legislature, conducts the management reviews for all agencies. They are online here. The management reviews are separate from the statewide Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and Internal Controls Report, online here, which is required under governmental accounting standards and examines financial details; it is completed every year for all state agencies. That financial audit is the one that highlighted issues with Crane’s shifting of investments from one investment pool to another, which the audit said cost state taxpayers $10 million; a 90-day follow-up to that audit issued at the end of June said auditors still haven’t received documentation of a full review to show whether there were other such issues.

 

Smoke plume from California wildfire rolls into Boise, blankets valley

Foul-smelling smoke from a huge wildfire in northern California that's burned hundreds of homes and other structures rolled into Boise this morning, limiting visibility, diminishing air quality and staining the sky a brownish-grey. “With the way the jet stream’s going and the wind patterns, we got hit with the plume from the California fire that’s getting all the press,” said Dave Luft, Idaho DEQ air quality manager for southwestern Idaho. As for air quality, “ We’re well into the yellow or moderate category.”

Luft said the smoke likely will clear up some this afternoon, and it could vary throughout the day with showers and other weather changes. “When it warms up, we’ll start to get better ventilation, and it will thin out a bit,” he said. A change in the weather is expected tomorrow that should alter the wind patterns and clear up Boise’s skies.

House backs president on Syria, but both Idaho reps vote no; Senate votes today

The U.S. House voted 273-156 in favor of President Obama’s plan to train and arm Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State militants yesterday, but both Idaho GOP representatives, 1st District Congressman Raul Labrador and 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson, voted no. The Senate votes today. Click below for a full report from the AP in Washington, D.C. There was both bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition to the move; The Hill has a full report here

Labrador, in a statement, said he’d support a “targeted operation” to go after the killers of two Americans murdered by ISIS, but not a broader move to support rebels who want to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad. Here’s Labrador’s statement:

“Like all Americans, I am outraged and saddened by the murder of two Americans by ISIS. I would support a targeted operation to hunt down the killers and win justice for the victims and their families. Instead, the president has engaged in a broad intervention without congressional approval and sought authority to arm Syrian rebels whose primary interest is removing President Assad.

“As I warned last year, regime change could lead to a worse outcome for America. While Assad is a brutal dictator, I still believe backing rebels allied with al-Qaeda and on the same side as ISIS in this civil war likely would bring to power even worse elements in Syria. Our focus should not be on resolving an age-old religious civil war, but on bringing to justice those who took the lives of our citizens.”

Idaho playwright says genius grant will let him devote himself to his work in ‘huge way’

A 33-year-old Idaho-born playwright is among the 21 winners of this year’s MacArthur Foundation “genius grants.” Samuel D. Hunter, now of New York, is the author of plays including “A Bright New Boise” and “The Whale.” The prize comes with $625,000. “What's going to change about my work is ostensibly not very much,” he told the Associated Press. “I just think I'm going to have so much more time and freedom to devote myself to it in this huge way.” Click below for a full report from AP reporter Warren Levinson in New York.

Of democracy, fundamental rights, and one key U.S. Supreme Court justice…

Tom Perry, attorney for Gov. Butch Otter, said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the author of the Windsor decision, has “sort of carved himself out as the swing vote, and we’ll see which side he goes on.” Said Perry, “This is a question of state authority, a question of the democratic vote in 2006 where Idahoans nearly 2-1 voted to retain the benefits of man-woman marriage. Justice Kennedy, as an advocate for gay and lesbian rights, is also a big proponent of democracy and federalism. So that’s where you’ve seen kind of the push and pull here.”

Deborah Ferguson, attorney for the couples challenging Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage, said, “If we are discussing a fundamental right … then that is not subject to the will of the majority, and we all don’t get to decide what the fundamental rights might be of a minority group. That is not the American way.”

She said, “There is the question: Is this a fundamental right? That’s our due process argument. The other is our equal protection argument. These are laws that discriminate against a group of people. … So does the government have a legitimate reason to discriminate against that group of citizens? That’s the equal protection argument I think in a nutshell.”

The attorneys are speaking at the University of Idaho's Constitution Day statewide panel discussion, with audiences in Boise, Moscow and Coeur d'Alene. Craig Durham said he agreed with Ferguson on democracy and fundamental rights, but also agreed with Perry that Justice Kennedy likely will be the deciding vote on the nation’s highest court.

‘Never seen access to the courtroom so tightly controlled’

The first question posed to the lawyers from Idaho’s gay marriage case was about the atmosphere in the courtroom at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals when the judges heard arguments in Idaho’s case earlier this month. Deborah Ferguson said the arguments were in the San Francisco courtroom that’s normally used for en banc arguments, when larger panels are convened. “It’s a very beautiful courtroom of marble and mosaics,” she said. “The building predates the great earthquake in San Francisco.” She added, “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen access to the courtroom so tightly controlled, and every seat was spoken for.”

The arguments were streamed live on YouTube, she noted. “Personally, I’d rather not be videotaped, although you forget about that very quickly as they start asking you questions, the judges, that is.”

Craig Durham said, “I had the unfortunate revelation afterward that I was on YouTube sitting behind whoever was speaking.” Tom Perry said, “I share Craig’s perspective – you would turn on your phone and you’ve got 300 texts, ‘Hey, I see you,’ as you’re pawing through your briefs trying to respond to an argument.”

Asked to rate the 9th Circuit judges’ questions compared to those from other circuits, the attorneys declined. Durham said he was a bit surprised that the 9th Circuit judges didn’t ask the lawyers any questions about Baker vs. Nelson, an early 1970s case that’s been a topic of questions at arguments in some other circuits.

Perry noted, “A lot of times, judges take you to places that really aren’t the principle thrust of your case.” He added said, “For degree of toughness, I really thought Judge (Candy) Dale, on both sides, she was really pretty tough on both of us.” Dale is the U.S. magistrate judge who overturned Idaho’s ban after hearing arguments this spring in Boise.

Lawyers: Marriage law debate offers chance to see ‘cutting-edge’ constitutional law arguments take shape

Deborah Ferguson, the attorney who made the arguments in the 9th Circuit this month against Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage, told the UI’s Constitution Day crowd, “It’s been sort of a remarkable turn of events in how quickly everything has developed … in a period of just 14 months.”

Tom Perry, attorney for Gov. Butch Otter – who’s on the other side of the case – agreed. A UI grad himself, he told the law students participating in today’s statewide discussion, “There aren’t really very many opportunities as a student to learn constitutional law from a real-live example,” but the marriage debate is just that. “The briefing in these cases is really quite good across the nation,” Perry said, advising law students to read it. “You’re reading cutting-edge equal protection (arguments), from both sides.” He added, “From both sides, we’re really seeing some fantastic advocacy, and it’s really worth a look to get a better flavor.”

Attorneys from both sides of marriage case address Constitution Day event

In honor of Constitution Day, attorneys from both sides in Idaho’s same-sex marriage case are gathered at a University of Idaho event in Boise today, in which students, lawyers and others are participating from Boise, Moscow and Coeur d’Alene. Here, the attorneys are Craig Durham, left, and Deborah Ferguson, center, who represent the four Idaho couples who successfully sued to overturn Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage in federal court; and at right, Tom Perry, attorney for Gov. Butch Otter, who is thumbing through a pocket version of the U.S. Constitution, an item that’s been provided to all the attendees here in Boise. Otter and the state appealed the federal court ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where it's now pending.

Shaakirrah Sanders, University of Idaho law professor, said, “This case still very much is in the litigation phase, and so to that extent … we are not expecting any of our panelists to really discuss the merits of the case. Our goal is to help provide a broader understanding both for the public and for the attorneys in the room on how our Constitution applies under these circumstances, and the fact that this is very much an issue that is in the public’s interest.”

Ferguson is starting with an overview of what's happened thus far in the case.

Tally of voter-approved supplemental school levies since ‘07 tops $1 billion

Since July 1, 2007, Idaho’s school districts have backfilled their budgets with more than $1 billion in supplemental property tax levies, Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News report. These short-term, voter-approved levies – property tax increases – have steadily grown over that time period; 91 of Idaho’s 115 school districts had a supplemental levy on the books in 2013-14, up from 59 districts in 2006-07, the budget year that ended on June 30, 2007.

Richert reports that the growth of the supplemental levies occurred as the state was cutting K-12 funding, and using money from the federal economic stimulus package to pick up some of the slack; but the locally passed supplemental levies replaced only a fraction of the money cut from state funding. His full report, including comments from candidates for governor and state school superintendent, is online here.

Labrador introduces bipartisan police de-militarization bill

Idaho 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador introduced bipartisan legislation today to restrict surplus military equipment from going to state and local law enforcement agencies, saying local police shouldn't be militarized. “Our nation was founded on the principle of a clear line between the military and civilian policing,” Labrador said in a news release. “The Pentagon’s current surplus property program blurs that line by introducing a military model of overwhelming force in our cities and towns. Our bill would restore the focus of local law enforcement on protecting citizens and providing due process for the accused.”

In 2011, Labrador co-sponsored a bill to require 10 percent of military equipment being returned from Iraq that's suitable for law enforcement work, including drones, humvees and night-vision goggles, to be sent to federal and state agencies with a preference for using it for southern border security. Labrador’s spokesman, Dan Popkey, says that was “apples and oranges” and nothing like the program he's targeting today. “The 2011 bill was specifically for border security,” Popkey said. “Also, the items had to be suitable for local policing.”

The 2011 bill, dubbed the SEND Act, didn’t pass. SEND stood for “Send Equipment for National Defense” Act. It directed the Secretary of Defense, within one year after eligible equipment returns to the United States from Iraq, to transfer at least 10 percent of that equipment to federal and state agencies, “with a preference to agencies that will use the equipment primarily for U.S. southern border security purposes.” It did not limit the equipment exclusively to that use, however.

The bill defined as “eligible equipment” any equipment determined to be suitable for use in law enforcement activities, “including surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles, night-vision goggles, and high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles (humvees).” The 2011 bill had 18 co-sponsors, all Republicans.

The new bill, dubbed the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2014, targets the Pentagon’s surplus property program that’s provided $4.2 billion in surplus military equipment to local and state law enforcement agencies without charge. That’s included everything from Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Vehicles, or MRAPs, to grenade launchers and high-caliber assault rifles. The program’s come under scrutiny since local police in Ferguson, Mo. used tank-like vehicles and military-style weapons for crowd control during demonstrations following the police shooting of a young unarmed man.

Labrador’s bill, which he introduced with Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and a bipartisan group of four other original co-sponsors, would exclude certain equipment including high-caliber weapons, long-range acoustic devices, grenade launchers, weaponized drones, armored vehicles and explosives from the program. It also would remove a requirement that police agencies use the equipment they get within a year, which Labrador said has been giving local police an incentive to use the military gear in inappropriate circumstances.

The bill also requires agencies to certify they can account for all equipment. In 2012, one Arizona sheriff was barred from the program after he couldn’t account for weapons and other equipment he’d received; and another Arizona county turned out to have transferred some of the equipment to non-police agencies like fire and ambulance units, in violation of the program’s rules.

BSU to change campus event policies that raised 1st Amendment issues

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Boise State University officials say they will change their on-campus event policies after facing a possible lawsuit from private legal organizations. The Idaho Freedom Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho had accused the university of violating the First Amendment after it charged a student organization security fees for a gun-rights event earlier this year. University officials had already reimbursed the students $465 but they say will now suspend the policies that allow them to charge for enhanced security. The university also on Tuesday said it will suspend five other rules where enforcement is dependent on subjective discretion, such as allowing exceptions for sound amplification. The rules will be suspended until the university finishes revising them.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi.

PERSI board grants first COLA for state and local government retirees in six years

The board of the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho voted today to give state retirees their first cost-of-living increase in six years, beyond the 1 percent a year already required by law. State retirees will get a 2 percent increase, consisting of the 1 percent mandatory boost and another 1 percent to reflect increases in the consumer price index; the decision is contingent on the new CPI report that’s due out tomorrow, which PERSI expects to come in at 2 percent.

In addition, the board voted to grant a 2 percent retroactive cost-of-living adjustment to make up a small part of what retirees missed out on for the past six years as COLAs were withheld. Of the 2 percent, 1.92 percent of that would apply to everyone who retired prior to July 1, 2008, while the remaining 0.08 percent would apply to those who retired by July 1, 2010. The cost-of-living adjustments were withheld all those years based on the status of the state retirement fund, which suffered during the recession but now has earnings robust enough to easily cover the increases, the board decided.

“There were a lot of people that walked out of there with smiles on their faces, because the board made decisions that people have been waiting for and are excited about,” said Kelly Cross, PERSI spokesman. “Because of the great recession, it took a while for the fund to dig out of that hole and get back to a healthy state. We had a 17.2 percent return for fiscal year 2014.” That meant a net gain, after all payouts to retirees were made for the year, of $1.9 billion for the fund.

PERSI is the retirement program for thousands of state and local government employees in Idaho, including teachers and public safety officers.

In addition to the total of 4 percent in cost-of-living increases – the board could have granted up to 8.05 percent, based on foregone increases over the last six years, but opted for a total of 4 percent – the PERSI board also voted to cancel two rate increases for employers and employees that otherwise would have taken effect next year and the year after. The two increases had been delayed repeatedly; an earlier one, a 1.5 percent hike, took effect in 2013 after several years of delays. “Employers and employees had been anticipating those two bumps up for some time,” Cross said, “so now this is a significant relief.”

The PERSI board also approved a decrease in the excess contribution rates for 22 fire departments and districts in the Firefighters’ Retirement Fund, which has been closed to new members since 1980, from 17.42 percent down to 5 percent. That’s because the funded status has reached 110 percent. Of the 550 members of that fund, just two are still actively working. The savings will be substantial to the employers involved, including the Boise Fire Department, which will save nearly $3 million. You can read PERSI's full announcement here, which notes that after the 4 percent COLAs, PERSI's funded status is 92.3 percent, with an amortization period of 12.8 years. By law, its amortization period must be 25 years or less; public pension systems are considered healthy when they're funded at 80 percent or better.

Land Board approves $1.5M increase in endowment payout to schools next year

Idaho’s state Land Board has voted unanimously in favor of recommendations for distributions to the state endowment beneficiaries – the largest of which is public schools – that include only a small increase for schools. In fiscal year 2016, public schools would receive a $1.5 million increase in its endowment payment to $32.8 million. That’s a 4.7 percent increase; the state’s other, smaller endowments would see larger, 8.7 percent increases, except for one that would stay even, based on its reserve levels. Higher earnings in the other funds also would lead to a transfer from reserves to the permanent fund of $38.6 million.

Larry Johnson, investment manager for the state endowment fund, said if Idaho were to distribute its target of 5 percent of the permanent fund to schools in 2016, that’d be $40 million. But that level would cut too far into reserves, he said, which are targeted to cover five years of payouts.

New forecasts, however, show schools likely would be in for larger increases in payouts in subsequent years, Johnson told the Land Board. In fiscal year 2017, the public school payout likely would rise to $39 million, and in fiscal 2018, to $44 million. “I think the outlook going forward is very positive,” Johnson said. Among factors leading to that positive outlook are “the amount of timber that’s been pre-sold that we know is going to flow into the public school.”

State schools Superintendent Tom Luna questioned whether the state would ever get to those higher payouts, given its policy of having five years of reserves on hand to cover payouts of 5 percent of the permanent fund each year. If the permanent fund keeps growing, it’d be harder and harder to get up to five years’ worth of reserves, he noted, because that 5 percent figure would keep rising. Johnson said the distributions still would rise each year, though, to one-fifth of whatever is in the reserve at that point.   

The point of the five years of reserves, he said, is that the payouts to the beneficiaries – including schools – would continue without reduction even in years when earnings are off. “We believe this is a conservative forecast,” Johnson said. Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News has a full report here.

Silver calls on Crane to turn over investment review documents to state auditors

Deborah Silver, the Twin Falls accountant who’s challenging four-term state Treasurer Ron Crane, is calling on Crane to release a full review of questioned investment transactions to state auditors. “What else does he have to hide?” Silver asked. “Idaho taxpayers deserve the truth from their state treasurer.”

Crane maintains he’s released all the information he can, but Idaho’s state auditor’s office, in an audit report released at the end of June, said it still hadn’t received documentation showing that Crane’s office has reviewed all potentially problematic transactions, after news of one surfaced in which a state investment pool lost millions when Crane’s office reallocated assets between it and a local government investment pool.

“While documentation of two specific reallocations was provided during the audit, no additional evidence supporting a full review of all potentially inappropriate reallocations was provided,” the late-June audit report said. Laura Steffler, Crane’s chief deputy, wrote in the office’s official response submitted for that report that the office had reviewed all securities lending transactions for reallocation of assets between investment portfolios directed by the office since July 1, 2008, and had already provided all the documentation.

“Short of just saying we did it, I don’t know how else we can prove … that we did it,” said Ken Burgess, spokesman for Crane’s re-election campaign. He said Crane’s office offered the auditors access to the full documentation for every one of the tens of thousands of transactions completed under its securities lending agreement since 2008, and the auditors declined that offer. “They said we don’t want all this stuff – we just want you to somehow prove that you did a full review,” Burgess said. “How do you prove that, short of taking our word that we did it?”

Silver responded, “That makes absolutely no sense. There are statements, with the allocations going back and forth reconciling the balance. … In my view, either he really does not understand what the auditors want, or he’s deliberately dodging.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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