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Eye on Boise: AG Lawrence Wasden finds Mar-a-Lago ‘interesting,’ not really his ‘style’

UPDATED: Sun., Nov. 26, 2017, 8:41 a.m.

Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s golf resort and favored getaway in Florida, is shown in this Nov. 21, 2016 file photo. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was among a group of GOP attorneys general who were bused to a reception at Mar-a-Lago during a conference they were holding nearby; Trump wasn’t around. (Lynne Sladky / AP)
Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s golf resort and favored getaway in Florida, is shown in this Nov. 21, 2016 file photo. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was among a group of GOP attorneys general who were bused to a reception at Mar-a-Lago during a conference they were holding nearby; Trump wasn’t around. (Lynne Sladky / AP)

When Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who attended a mid-November Republican Attorneys General Association meeting in Florida that included a reception and dinner Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s golf club and retreat, was asked how he liked Mar-a-Lago, Wasden said, “It was gaudy.”

Wasden said he and a group of other GOP attorneys general were brought to Mar-a-Lago on a bus from their conference hotel, the Breakers in Palm Beach, and were confined to a roped-off area within Trump’s exclusive club. When he stepped outside it to take a phone call, he said, he was swiftly ordered back in.

“It was an interesting experience – it’s not really my style,” Wasden said.

The group’s fall meeting, which ran from Friday, Nov. 10, to Sunday, Nov. 12, featured issue briefings, a business meeting, speakers, golf, receptions and fundraisers. Wasden was among 20 GOP state attorneys general scheduled to attend, according to an agenda published online by Maplight and the International Business Times.

Radioactive sewage?

A 22-year-old Boise man has been sentenced to a year of probation for violating the Clean Water Act by dumping dangerous and corrosive materials leftover from uranium extraction down the sink in his rented West Boise apartment and into the city sewage system. The discharges triggered a “significant government response,” though “no widespread danger to the community was discovered,” according to the Idaho U.S. Attorney’s office.

James Findlay pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge in federal court; the discharges occurred between April 2012 and October 2014. According to court records, he was operating a business called Sawtooth Fusion LLC out of his apartment, in which he obtained about 50 pounds of depleted uranium from an aircraft salvage company, along with other items, and chemically extracted the uranium from them by soaking them in muriatic acid. He then poured the waste down the bathroom sink. His activities resulted in the radioactive contamination of the apartment and a local business where he took some of the materials to be cut without disclosing their nature.

“This case shows that EPA, along with our law enforcement partners, will vigorously pursue criminal behavior in order to protect our communities,” said Jeanne Proctor, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in the Pacific Northwest, in a news release today.

The case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the FBI. The Boise Fire Department and Boise Police were the first responders to the apartment complex.

Ed Board needs spokesman

State Board of Education officials are searching for a new spokesperson and legislative affairs officer, just seven weeks before the start of the 2018 session, Idaho Education News reported last week. Blake Youde announced Thursday that he is voluntarily leaving the board position to work in the private sector. Youde plans to remain in Idaho and continue to do public affairs and government relations work.

Youde has been with the board since January 2015. His last day is Nov. 28. The board posted the new job opening Thursday. The board will accept applications through Nov. 30. The salary range runs from $42.31 per hour to $44.24 per hour.

Jobless rate up to 2.9 percent

Idaho unemployment rose to 2.9 percent in October, the first increase in eight years after a long run of consistent drops; September’s jobless rate was the lowest since 1976. The Idaho Department of Labor attributed October’s increase to a surge in the number of Idahoans 16 and older looking for work; the month saw 4,850 people added to the labor force, one of the largest monthly increases on record. As a result, despite the notch up in the jobless rate, total employment in the state grew.

Idaho job numbers have been growing steadily since hitting a low during the recession in January of 2010.

Nationally, unemployment dropped slightly in October to 4.1 percent.

Forest Legacy projects

Idaho’s state Land Board has unanimously approved the purchase of conservation easements on eight parcels of land in Boundary County, allowing the properties to be maintained as working forests under private ownership, guaranteeing public access for recreation and foreclosing development that would convert the land to nonforest uses. The parcels, in the McArthur Lake and Hall Mountain areas, total just over 5,000 acres.

The Forest Legacy program taps energy royalties paid into the Land and Water Conservation Fund to fund grants for the easements. In Idaho, the program has kept 90,000 acres open to public access while also keeping them in private ownership and timber production.

Letters of support for the latest projects came from the Boundary County Commission; the City of Bonners Ferry; the Kootenai Tribe; the Idaho Department of Fish and Game; several lumber companies; the Trust for Public Land; the Panhandle National Forests; and an array of others.


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