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Idaho Voices

Otter pledges to ‘analyze’ agencies’ gender wage gap

Sun., June 27, 2010

BOISE – Of the 77 heads of Idaho state agencies under the Otter administration, 27 are women and 50 are men. The average salary for the male agency heads: $109,658. For the females: $88,681.

Gov. Butch Otter, who last week held a “Women’s Day in the Capitol” featuring 32 female officials from his administration, seemed surprised and pleased that so many of his agency heads are women. He furrowed his brow at the pay disparity, though.

“I think I would have to analyze that a lot deeper and a lot closer,” Otter said. “I’m telling you this: If (state parks director) Nancy Merrill became the head of the Department of Corrections, she would get (prison chief) Brent Reinke’s salary. … If there’s inequities, then we oughta correct them where we can and as soon as we can.”

The figures come from The Spokesman-Review’s analysis of state payroll records from the state controller’s office, which include everything from college presidents (four men, one woman) to state tax commissioners (three men, one woman); and from the Department of Administration chief, Mike Gwartney, whose salary is zero, to Otter’s three top female department heads, the heads of the departments of Agriculture, Environmental Quality and Parks. The figures are as of Jan. 7, 2010.

Of the 20 state departments that make up the state’s executive branch, five are headed by women.

Idaho also is currently in the midst of a wrongful firing lawsuit from former Transportation Director Pam Lowe, whose claims include sex discrimination; she was replaced by a man who’s being paid $22,000 more than she made.

In 2007, Otter made Idaho one of just two states in the nation with no women justices on its Supreme Court when he appointed Joel Horton to replace retiring Justice Linda Copple-Trout, the court’s only woman justice at the time, passing over two female judges who were finalists for the post.

Otter said when it comes to judicial appointments, “I hope I’m color-blind, gender-blind – I hope I appointed what I believe to be the best-quality person, no matter what gender, no matter what race, no matter what religion, anything else. I just want the best person.”

Whole speech plagiarized

KTVB-TV, in a special “Viewpoint” program entitled “Plagiarism in Politics,” did extensive analysis on unsuccessful GOP congressional candidate Vaughn Ward’s January announcement speech and reached a startling conclusion – the whole speech was plagiarized, not just the final paragraph in which Ward echoed Barack Obama’s 2004 Democratic convention speech. (That final part was featured in a video mash-up that went viral shortly before the primary election and was featured on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.)

According to the station’s analysis, while other parts of the speech also repeated Obama’s words, the entire meat of the speech echoes an announcement speech given by a Pennsylvania congressional candidate, Pat Meehan, four months earlier.

That includes the entire part in which Ward talked about concerns he’d heard from Idahoans in his year of campaigning around the state; Meehan laid those out as the concerns he was hearing from people in Pennsylvania during his announcement speech there in September 2009.

Only 25 percent of Ward’s speech was original, the station found, and that part was where Ward talked about his military experience and when he gave his goodbyes and thanks. You can see the program and its documentation at the station’s website, KTVB also talked with Ryan O’Barto, Ward’s former campaign manager, whom Ward blamed for adding the Obama lines to a speech that Ward said he’d written himself; O’Barto told KTVB neither he nor Ward wrote the speech but wouldn’t say who did.

Cancer top killer

of Idahoans

According to the latest vital statistics report from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the top cause of death for Idahoans is cancer, which crept ahead of heart disease in 2008 to claim the top spot. Chronic lower respiratory diseases, including emphysema, asthma and chronic bronchitis, were the third most common cause of death, followed by accidents (No. 4), cerebrovascular disease including strokes (No. 5), Alzheimer’s (No. 6), diabetes (No. 7), suicide (No. 8), flu/pneumonia (No. 9) and kidney disease (No. 10).

A few other oddments from the newly published Idaho Vital Statistics report (2008 data): 43.5percent of all births in Benewah County were to unmarried women, the highest in the state, followed closely by Clearwater, Shoshone and Nez Perce counties. The state’s oldest bride in 2008 was 89, while the oldest groom was 90; the youngest bride was 14 and the youngest groom was 16. One Idaho couple divorced in 2008 after 71 years of marriage; another after 17 days.

And the most common baby names in Idaho in 2008: Olivia for girls and Ethan for boys.

Dems speak out

on Hart’s taxes

The Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee issued a press release calling on Idaho elected officials to say where they stand on Rep. Phil Harts tax woes, which are the subject of a pending House ethics committee; the committee will look into whether Hart had a conflict of interest in serving on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee while pressing his legal fight over unpaid state and federal income taxes, and whether he abused legislative privilege by citing it in seeking delays in his tax cases.

“Idaho citizens work hard and pay their taxes that provide for roads, schools and our national defense,” Thom George, chairman of the Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee, said in the release. “Even if we don’t always agree with how those taxes are collected and distributed we understand our responsibility to comply with federal and state laws. For Mr. Hart to refuse to pay his taxes for years and then fail to comply with a court decision ordering repayment is reprehensible. Each and every elected official in the state of Idaho should call upon Mr. Hart to step down immediately.”

Other states still waiting

It may seem like it took a long time for Wendy Olson, Idaho’s new U.S. attorney, to be nominated and confirmed – after all, the Obama administration has been in office for a year and a half; Olson, who had the enthusiastic backing of Idaho’s congressional delegation, was confirmed by the Senate last week. But it turns out other states have been waiting longer.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who watches federal appointments and confirmations, said only about half of the 93 U.S. attorneys across the nation are Obama appointees, “so he still has a number to go.” Of Olson’s appointment, Tobias said, “All in all, she moved fairly quickly.”

Olson replaces former U.S. Attorney Tom Moss, who first took office in 2001.


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