Legislation to put the state Attorney General in charge of investigating civil or criminal law violations by county elected officials, including open meeting law violations by boards of county commissioners, has passed the House on a 62-3 vote and now heads to the governor’s desk. Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, said current law sets up a conflict of interest, requiring county prosecutors to investigate violations by county officials – including themselves. “The bottom line is that no public official should be deciding if they should make an ethics investigation on themselves or their client, the county officials,” she told the House.
The bill was co-sponsored by six Canyon County lawmakers, in the wake of that county’s experience with disgraced former county Prosecutor John Bujak. It calls for adding an additional deputy attorney general and one investigator in the Idaho Attorney General’s office, at a cost of $212,600 a year, to create a new unit to investigate such crimes.
The three “no” votes in the House came from Reps. Moyle, Bedke and Barrett; no one debated against the bill.
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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