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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

When partings are sweetened…

Here's a link to my full story at on the bill introduced today to ban purchases of additional retirement service for state employees to get them to retire early - a practice that resulted in $125,000 in such state expenditures in 2009, including $72,781 for a single employee. State law strictly bans severance payments to state employees who leave their jobs voluntarily, but the retirement boosts weren't considered severance because the payments went to the employees' accounts at the state retirement system, not directly to the employees.

Idaho enacted its severance-pay ban in 1993 after a political scandal involving then-U.S. Sen. Dirk Kempthorne, who paid more than $38,000 in city-funded severance bonuses to two top aides who worked for him when he was mayor of Boise, when they left city employment to take higher-paid positions on his Senate staff. The move caused such a fuss that the office of the new senator, on his first day in Washington, D.C., was besieged with outraged calls from Idaho, particularly as he had campaigned on a reform platform and decried congressional perks and “midnight pay raises.”

The aides eventually paid the money back to the city, and the city revoked the severance policy that had authorized the payments. In that year's legislative session, the state severance pay ban passed both houses overwhelmingly and was signed into law by then-Gov. Cecil Andrus.

Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.