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New tax commissioner cutting old ties

Idaho's newest state tax commissioner, longtime CPA and prominent Republican Rich Jackson, says he's going above and beyond legal requirements to step away from professional and political involvements as he moves into his new role. Among the positions he's resigning: He's withdrawing from his CPA partnership, Jackson and Coles in Boise, and said he'll recuse himself from any issues involving former clients, partners or employees of the firm. He's resigning as chairman of the Idaho Legislative Compensation Committee, treasurer of the Boise Metro Chamber PAC, a member of the Idaho Manufactured Housing Board, and treasurer of the Idaho House of Representatives Republican Caucus.

"How can a tax commissioner write checks and make decisions on who gets political funds and really be independent? Even if it's not there, it's implied," Jackson said. "I just didn't even want to embarrass the governor or the Tax Commission or anybody, so I stepped aside." He added, "I'm trying to be very methodical and complete, and if I miss something I'm going to fix it. ... These economic times are too tough, and I'm fully aware of all the criticism."

The Tax Commission has come in for much criticism in recent years, from whistleblowers' allegations that it was cutting secret deals with politically connected taxpayers to the resignation of former Chairman Royce Chigbrow in January amid a criminal investigation. Last week, the Ada County prosecutor announced he wouldn't bring charges against Chigbrow despite having found evidence of wrongdoing on at least one count involving mishandling of checks, because a statute of limitations had expired on that charge. Chigbrow had been accused by commission employees of intervening on behalf of his son's accounting firm and attempting to use his position to help a friend embroiled in a dispute with a former business partner.

Jackson is blunt about the impact of the Chigbrow scandal. "I think it tarnished not only the Tax Commission, but CPAs," he said; Chigbrow, like Jackson, is a longtime certified public accountant. "I'm hurt over it, it's unfortunate," he said. "But I will tell you the governor's office was very methodical and we've taken lots of additional steps so that can't happen again." You can read my full Sunday column here at

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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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