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Eye on Boise: Former GOP Chairman Peterson confirms Thorpe’s exit

BOISE – Embattled former Idaho Republican Party Chairman Barry Peterson, who maintains he’s still the party chairman, confirmed Friday that he’s changed the locks at the state party offices and that party executive director Trevor Thorpe is no longer with the party. That leaves just finance chief and office staffer Mary Tipps, who started a month ago, on the state party’s paid staff.

“The staff is composed of two, and three or four volunteers,” Peterson said. “And Trevor is going to pursue his master’s degree. Two weeks ago or maybe even three weeks ago, he told me that within a week or so of the convention, he wanted to head out for his master’s degree, so that did happen.”

Peterson said he had the office locks changed “for security reasons.” He said over the years, through many changes, it had become unclear where all the keys to the offices were, so he decided “that it would be just as well to have things be where we knew where all the keys were. So we did that, just for security purposes.”

Peterson said he believes the party’s rules committee that met Thursday night and voted to keep him and other officers in place for two more years was “properly noticed” and constituted. As for the executive committee that met a day earlier and reached the opposite conclusion – holding that party offices were vacant, voting to reappoint several others but not the chairman and deferring to the Central Committee to handle the chairmanship selection – Peterson said, “I didn’t have a hand in it. I know what the rules talk about relative to the executive committee.”

Peterson said he and Tipps are “working hard to try to meet the responsibilities of the office,” including paperwork involving elected party positions for each county and district and contact information for them. “It’s a heck of a workload and we’ve been distracted from being able to get all that done, so we’re just trying to get it done,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of work to do.”

And from the other side…

Grant Loebs, the chairman of the Idaho GOP’s legislative District 24, a member of the state Central Committee and also the Twin Falls county prosecutor, says in his view, Peterson’s term ends on Tuesday. “The chairman is elected for a two-year term,” Loebs said, and Peterson was elected at the party’s 2012 convention in Twin Falls on June 23.

The chairman’s term is described in two ways in the party rules, Loebs said, both as a two-year term and one that ends when the next chairman is elected and takes office immediately at the state convention, which could be slightly less than two years. “So one way or the other, he’s out on the 24th at the very latest,” he said.

Loebs said he viewed Thursday night’s rules committee meeting, which Peterson convened, as without any effect. “It’s kind of a tin-horn dictator-type coup,” Loebs said. “And the question is what do you do when somebody stages a coup and has the office and changes the locks and has their hands on the bank account and the computer systems, how do you get them out of there? In this country, we don’t do it through violence, so we have to work through all the processes that are available to us.”

Loeb said it’s up to the party’s state Central Committee to select the next chairman.

Jobless rate below 5 percent

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell below 5 percent in May for the first time in nearly six years, the Idaho Department of Labor reports. There were 15,000 more Idahoans working in May than in May 2013, with the jobless rate at 4.9 percent. Ada County’s rate in May was 4.2 percent; Canyon, 5.6 percent; Kootenai, 5.1 percent; and Bonneville 4.1 percent.

Wildfire outlook

The rain that fell last week in much of Idaho – and the unseasonable June snow in the mountains – is actually very, very good news for Idaho’s upcoming fire season, according to a fire outlook briefing to the state Land Board.

“You shorten the window that’s available for your fire season,” Jeremy Sullens, wildland fire analyst for the National Interagency Fire Center, told the board. “So precipitation events in June … are a significant factor in decreasing the fire season.”

Meanwhile, 250 ranchers across the state are now trained to help fight fires, as a result of the formation of five Rangeland Fire Protective Associations. The ranchers get training and help with equipment to enable them to quickly jump on wildfires that start near them, before state or federal firefighters can get to the scene. Gov. Butch Otter said other Western governors have expressed interest in following Idaho’s lead on that.

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