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Eye On Boise

Tue., April 19, 2011, 2:28 p.m.

New Tax Commish chief’s state-paid moving expenses ‘like the old riddle’

When new state Tax Commission Chairman Bob Geddes was appointed, he was in Boise serving as a ninth-term state senator; two years earlier, he'd sold his house in Soda Springs and bought a home in Meridian, but he was still renting a home in Soda Springs. Under state policies, Geddes was entitled to reimbursement for his moving expenses for the job, including one-way transport of two vehicles.

But since he was in Boise, he had to go back to Soda Springs in eastern Idaho each time he packed up and moved household items from there to Boise; as a result, the $1,861.66 in moving expenses he submitted violated the state's rules for two reasons: It included trips that weren't from the old to the new location (because they were round trips from Boise), and Geddes wanted to bill the state for another trip this spring to pick up and trailer back his antique car, a 1930 Model A Ford. The other vehicle he moved was his pickup; that's not counting his car, in which he and his wife drove to Soda Springs twice for the move and she drove back each time while he drove a rented U-Haul van one time and the pickup the other time.

Variances from the state's moving-expense policy for top workers can be approved by the state Board of Examiners; in submissions to the board, Geddes noted that he made his move affordable by packing and moving himself in a U-Haul, and said, "The timeliness of this move allowed me to save at least two months of home rental payments in Soda Springs." The appointment came up unexpectedly in the  midst of the legislative session, he said.

"I know that this entire process seems like the old riddle of how to get a goat, fox, chicken and a rattle snake across the river in a canoe by making the least number of crossings and with nobody being eaten," Geddes wrote. "My riddle was to go to Soda Springs, rent a moving van, move household belonging to Boise and two vehicles in the least number of trips. I believe I solved the riddle in the most cost-effective manner for the state of Idaho." However, a subcommittee of the Board of Examiners determined that the antique car didn't qualify for a $526.20 moving expense reimbursement,  "because it is for the move of a non-household item."

So Geddes submitted a revised request, and today, the Board of Examiners voted unanimously to approve reimbursement for the extra trip legs between Boise and Soda Springs, for a total of $436.80. That means Geddes' total state-reimbursed moving expenses came to $1,335.46, since the antique-car portion was removed. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who serves on the board, said, "There are some extenuating circumstances that justify the expenses," including the "very short time frame" Geddes was given to switch jobs while required by his previous post to be in Boise for the legislative session. "So there is good justification for the exception from the standard policy." Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who also serves on the board, noted the exclusion of the other $526.20. "I think we've made the frugal choice and the wise choice on these exceptions," he said.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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