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No prosecution for Chigbrow despite ‘evidence of wrongdoing’

Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower's office announced Friday it won't prosecute the former chairman of the Idaho State Tax Commission, the Associated Press reports, saying a statute of limitations expired on one complaint despite evidence of wrongdoing and that admissible evidence of illegal activity in other complaints was insufficient. Former Chairman Royce Chigbrow was investigated over several months by an Ada County Sheriff's Office detective on suspicion of failing to appropriately deposit checks from a taxpayer in 2010, providing confidential information to a friend and allegedly receiving stolen checks totaling more than $30,000; Chigbrow resigned in January as agency employees' complaints about these issues became public. Click below for the full report from AP reporter John Miller.


Prosecutors won't pursue former Idaho tax commish
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower's office announced Friday it won't prosecute the former chairman of the Idaho State Tax Commission, saying a statute of limitations expired on one complaint despite evidence of wrongdoing and that admissible evidence of illegal activity in other complaints was insufficient.

Former Chairman Royce Chigbrow was investigated over several months by an Ada County Sheriff's Office detective on suspicion of failing to appropriately deposit checks from a taxpayer in 2010, providing confidential information to a friend and allegedly receiving stolen checks totaling more than $30,000.

Chigbrow resigned in January as agency employees' complaints about these issues became public.

While Bower's office concluded there was evidence Tax Commission employees including Chigbrow had failed to appropriately deposit taxpayer checks, it found the statute of limitations had expired.

It also found there was insufficient evidence that Chigbrow provided his friend with information about confidential tax collection actions to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt.

“There is no direct evidence of such a release, and while such an inference could possibly be drawn from other evidence, that inference is insufficiently compelling to support prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt,” wrote Jonathan Medema, the deputy prosecuting attorney who reviewed the sheriff's investigation.

Chigbrow, a political appointee of Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, said the result was good news.

“I didn't expect them to reach any other conclusion,” Chigbrow said Friday, before referring additional questions to his attorney.

Charles McDevitt, Chigbrow's attorney, didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Medema said Chigbrow declined to be interviewed during the detective's investigation.

Starting last year, Chigbrow was the target of unrest within the Idaho Tax Commission office, with employees accusing him of intervening on behalf of his son's accounting firm, as well as attempting to use his position to help a friend embroiled in a dispute with a former business partner.

After a public records request, The Associated Press obtained documents gathered by Tax Commission employees that underscored their concerns about Chigbrow's behavior.

Among other things, Chigbrow was accused of helping his friend, Benton “Skip” Hofferber, by summoning Tax Commission employees to his office to provide them with confidential information about the tax problems of Hofferber's former employer. Hofferber was at the time suing the company, Boise Food Service, after being fired in October 2009.

Tax Commission employees said Chigbrow met with Hofferber about the case at a private Boise dining club; inappropriately handled the company's cashiers checks; and tried to block a refund after Boise Food Service had brought its taxes current.

In a statement outlining its conclusions, Bower's office said there was evidence that more than one state Tax Commission employee improperly handled Boise Food Service's checks, but that the one-year statute of limitations had expired before it could sufficiently review the matter. It also concluded that nobody was financially harmed.

“That check was ultimately applied to the appropriate account,” Medema wrote.

Medema did conclude that Hofferber appeared to be attempting to gain information about tax collection actions against Boise Food Service, but said concluding that Chigbrow actually gave it to him wasn't possible.

The Ada County Sheriff's detective also investigated whether Chigbrow accepted checks that were reportedly stolen by Hofferber from Boise Food Service. Again, there wasn't adequate proof of wrongdoing.

“There is insufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that former Commissioner Chigbrow, or any other employee of the State Tax Commission, knew such sums were stolen at the time they were received,” according to Medema.

Hofferber's phone number is unlisted.

Lynn Chenoweth, former administrator of the Tax Commission's audits and collections division who retired in May 2010 and one of the agency employees who expressed concerns about Chigbrow's actions, didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Current Tax Commission members — the panel is now chaired by former Idaho Sen. Bob Geddes — couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
  


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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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