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Eye on Boise: Idaho state board picks a nonacademic to head Idaho State University

UPDATED: Sun., April 22, 2018, 6:39 a.m.

Kevin Satterlee (Idaho State Journal)
Kevin Satterlee (Idaho State Journal)

Idaho’s state Board of Education has named five finalists to be the next president of Boise State University, and all are academics with Ph.D. degrees.

That might seem like a given, but the board’s recent pick to be the new president of Idaho State University in Pocatello doesn’t fit that description – Kevin Satterlee is an attorney, a graduate of the University of Idaho College of Law, who most recently has been chief operating officer, vice president and special counsel at BSU. He previously served as deputy attorney general for the Office of the State Board of Education.

Satterlee, who starts June 18, will be paid $370,000 a year.

A law degree – a J.D., or Juris Doctor – has been declared by the American Bar Association to be a “terminal degree” and equivalent to a doctorate for purposes of practicing law or teaching law. However, it is still possible to earn a Ph.D. in law – and college professors who teach subjects other than law typically have such degrees. And holders of J.D. degrees are not referred to as “doctor.”

Satterlee has only the J.D. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Boise State.

He’s taught several law-related classes at BSU and the U of I as an adjunct professor.

“I have a lot of experience in higher education and in the system, and one of the things that I have mentioned to people is that I understand and very much appreciate the role that the faculty play and I know that my job as president is to make it easier for the faculty to do what they do,” Satterlee said. “I haven’t been in the classroom in the same way they have, but I have so much respect for what they do, and my role as the president will be to support that in every way I can.”

Meanwhile, the state board’s recent pick for president of Lewis-Clark State College is Cynthia Pemberton, who has worked in higher education for more than 30 years, most recently as vice president for academic affairs at Colorado Mesa University; she holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Portland State University. Pemberton, a former Fulbright scholar, holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology from Willamette University in Salem and a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from Southern Oregon College; she has taught and done extensive academic research, and is the author of numerous publications, including two books.

Pemberton, who starts July 1, will be paid $225,000 a year – $145,000 a year less than Satterlee.

Crapo hit with complaint

A watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo for failing to report fundraisers held at a condo co-owned by the wife of a top energy lobbyist. The complaint was filed by the Campaign for Accountability. It’s the same condo where EPA chief Scott Pruitt stayed for $50 a night, also sparking controversy.

The complaint charges that Crapo’s Senate campaign committee and his leadership PACs held monthly fundraising events at the condo, but didn’t report to the FEC making any payments to condo owner Vicki Hart, or receiving in-kind contributions from her for the use of the space.

Crapo’s press secretary, Robert Sumner, issued this statement: “Senator Crapo, like other members of Congress, has used the townhouse for campaign-related events, but not for the senator’s personal use or for any overnight stays. Last month, the campaign initiated an internal review and then engaged outside counsel to examine the campaign’s use of the townhouse and any resulting FEC reporting requirements. If necessary, the campaign will file amended reports with the FEC to ensure compliance with campaign finance laws.”

Sumner said the outside counsel hired for this purpose is Sam Neal of McDermott Will & Emery, in Washington, D.C.

Idaho unemployment dips again

Unemployment in Idaho dipped to 2.9 percent in March, after holding at 3 percent for six months; meanwhile, job growth for the month, compared with the same time a year earlier, showed the fastest growth rate in the nation for second consecutive month, according to the Idaho Department of Labor.

Total nonfarm jobs grew by 3.3 percent for a total of 23,300 jobs, the department reports. Construction jobs showed the biggest growth, at 8.6 percent for an additional 3,800 jobs. Financial activities, other services, manufacturing, and the leisure and hospitality sectors all had year-over-year job gains of more than 4 percent.

The labor force – the number of people 16 years of age and older working or looking for work – increased by 1,646 from February to March for an all-time record high of 848,097. Total employment increased by 1,963 to 823,423, while the reported number of unemployed Idahoans dropped by 317 to 24,674.

Inspired by our open government …

It was my pleasure last week to address a group from Iraq, including the director general of the central bank and an array of high-level government officials who work on everything from urban planning to accounting, finance and administration, as they visited Boise under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. The delegation is studying how to strengthen government financial management and transparency, and to learn from examples in Boise; Scottsdale, Arizona; Cleveland; and Washington, D.C.

I met with them in my capacity as the president of Idahoans for Openness in Government, or IDOG, an all-volunteer nonprofit coalition that works to educate Idahoans about our state’s key open government laws, the Idaho Open Meeting Law and the Idaho Public Records Act, with a goal of fostering open government supervised by an informed and engaged citizenry. And here’s the coolest part: They want to start a similar group in their country, where they say government records routinely are closed to citizens.

According to the Department of State, the delegation, which is communicating through interpreters, is examining, among other things, the decentralized and self-regulating nature of U.S. federalism and how it promotes transparency in government; studying decentralized planning and management of budgets and expenditures; and exploring the role of civil society in fostering good governance and accountability in government.