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No charges for Crane over gas card use

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A southwestern Idaho county prosecutor won't pursue criminal charges against state Treasurer Ron Crane over his use of a state gas card to fill up his private vehicle. Canyon County prosecutor Bryan Taylor did recommend Crane begin more-comprehensive record keeping, to ensure he's not using taxpayer-funded gasoline for personal trips. Taylor also said he strongly advocates for the state to clarify its state travel policy. Crane said in a statement that he was delighted with Taylor's findings — and will keep comprehensive driving records. His office's finances have been the focus of an audit by Legislative Services. The state forwarded concerns over Crane's use of a state Chevron card to fill up his personal vehicle and commute to and from the Capitol in Boise to the prosecutor for further scrutiny. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.


Prosecutor: No charges against Idaho treasurer
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press


BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A southwestern Idaho county prosecutor announced Thursday he won't pursue criminal charges against state Treasurer Ron Crane for using a state gas card to fill up his private vehicle, concluding there's no evidence the four-term Republican acted with criminal intent.

Canyon County prosecutor Bryan Taylor did recommend Crane quit using the gas card for undocumented purposes and begin more-comprehensive record keeping, ensuring he's not using taxpayer-funded gasoline for personal trips. Taylor also suggested Idaho clarify travel policies governing elected officials.

For months, Crane's office's finances have been the focus of a regularly scheduled audit by Legislative Services. In the process, auditors discovered the treasurer was using a state Chevron card to fill up his personal vehicle without documenting travel, a contradiction of Idaho travel policies that require accurate record keeping and don't include provisions allowing officials to put state-purchased gasoline into private vehicles.

“While Mr. Crane might therefore have acted without express administrative approval, and the issue may be ripe for correction through management review, I do not believe that the interests of justice would be served by my office proceeding with criminal charges,” Taylor wrote in his report. “There is no evidence suggesting that Mr. Crane acted with criminal intent and insufficient evidence to charge a criminal violation of Idaho law.”

Taylor was called in to investigate last year after Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden identified a potential conflict of interest.

Between 2008 and 2010, Crane's Chevron bill totaled about $7,900, according to auditor's records.

In a statement, Crane said Thursday he was pleased with Taylor's findings — and promised to keep comprehensive driving records of his official travel, from now on.

“I am delighted with the finding of the Canyon County prosecutor, which validates the usage of my private vehicle for travel to and from work as being within state policy,” Crane said. “I have adopted the recommendations of the prosecutor to keep a comprehensive record of state-driven miles in my private vehicle.”

In interviews with The Associated Press late last year, Crane acknowledged he used state gasoline in his private car for short side trips to the store, church and post office, in addition to driving to and from his work at the Capitol.

While state policy requires all travel be “properly authorized” and “actually incurred,” Crane maintains he's no regular state employee, rather an elected official on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from constituents who often seek him out in venues outside the Capitol.

From his review, Taylor said he couldn't conclude Crane's distinction between “state employee” and “elected official” was in error.

“State employees are treated differently throughout Idaho code as well as the State Travel Policies and Procedures,” Taylor wrote, suggesting legislators re-evaluate discrepancies in how the two classes of public employees must comply with Idaho's travel policies.

In addition, Crane contends he was actually saving Idaho taxpayers money by using his personal car, after his office in February 2005 disposed of the state-owned vehicle he had been driving. Crane estimates he saved Idaho more than $30,000 over the five-year period, in leasing and maintenance costs.

Taylor agreed Crane's claim of savings was plausible.

“Although Mr. Crane could have conducted and documented his usage of a state gasoline card differently to better accord with the spirit of state rules, it appears that such use may have resulted in an overall cost savings,” Taylor wrote.

Auditors have yet to release the results of their full report on Crane's office.

Legislative Services audits division manager Don Berg has said he cannot comment on findings in the auditor's report until it is made public.


Copyright 2012 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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