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Eye On Boise

Chigbrow resignation came after allegations of intervening in tax cases

Idaho Tax Commission Chairman Royce Chigbrow resigned Friday after employees at the agency said he intervened in tax cases involving clients of his son's accounting firm as well as for a friend and political supporter, the AP reports. Click below for the full article from AP reporter John Miller.

APNewsBreak: Idaho Tax Commission chairman resigns
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Tax Commission Chairman Royce Chigbrow resigned Friday after employees at the agency said he intervened in tax cases involving clients of his son's accounting firm as well as for a friend and political supporter.

Chigbrow told Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter in a hand-delivered letter obtained by The Associated Press that he was resigning "effective immediately."

Chigbrow, appointed by Otter in 2007, said in the letter that "unfortunately, and perhaps unfairly, I have become the issue."

"I know there needs to be a change," Chigbrow said.

His resignation comes a day after House Speaker Lawerence Denney, a Republican from Midvale, said he expected an investigation into Chigbrow's conduct.

Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower was also looking into whether Chigbrow violated disclosure laws by providing confidential taxpayer information to somebody who wasn't entitled to it.

Otter accepted Chigbrow's resignation, without commenting on the concerns raised by Tax Commission employees.

The governor and Chigbrow are longtime Republican allies: Chigbrow has served as Otter's campaign treasurer; now, the chairman's son, Cordell Chigbrow, is Otter's gubernatorial campaign treasurer.

"Royce has been my friend and trusted adviser for a number of years. He was kind enough to enter the arena of public service at my request, and I applaud his hard work, knowledge and expertise in that role," Otter said. "I wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

Tax Commission employees say Chigbrow sought to assist Benton "Skip" Hofferber, an Idaho businessman who supported Chigbrow's unsuccessful 2006 run for state controller. Hofferber is fighting with his former employer, Boise Food Service, after being fired in October 2009.

Employees say Chigbrow summoned them to his office to provide details of collection actions against the company to Hofferber, though Hofferber wasn't entitled to it; inappropriately handled checks he'd received from his friend at a private dining club in Boise, resulting in a Boise Police investigation; and sought to block a refund last May, after the company brought its tax payments current.

The Tax Commission employees also say the chairman intervened in early 2010 on behalf of a client of his son's Boise-based accounting firm to reduce a payment plan to remedy delinquent taxes, despite objections of agency staff.

"Our system of taxation is not perfect, but I tried to do my best on behalf of every Idahoan during my tenure, while treating taxpayers with the respect, fairness and dignity they deserve," Chigbrow told Otter in his resignation letter.

Idaho lawmakers are calling for a reorganization of the Tax Commission. That's after these concerns, as well as a lawsuit alleging that commissioners over the years have given tax breaks to politically connected Idaho residents.

Multiple reviews of separate 2008 complaints by auditors — conducted by the Idaho attorney general's office, an Otter appointee as well as legislators — concluded no laws had been broken, but legislators say reforms now could help restore public confidence that all taxpayers are being treated equally.

Proposed reforms could include splitting up the duties of commissioners, who not only oversee agency employees but also must decide tax protests.

House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, says he doesn't know if Chigbrow did anything wrong but supports a revamp of the agency.

"I don't like commenting on allegations, but I do believe there are some fundamental problems within the tax commission and the department itself that need to be addressed and I think you'll see the Legislature look at that this year," Moyle said.

Chigbrow said in his letter he felt "vindicated" that the previous investigations found no criminal activity by his office. Still, his departure comes as Bower, the Ada County prosecutor, looks into concerns of employees including whether Chigbrow gave confidential tax details to somebody who wasn't entitled to it when he became involved in Hofferber's tax case.

Even with his resignation, that probe could still move forward.

"The issues that surround the ethical piece of this and disclosure issue remain on the table for us," Bower told the AP on Thursday.


AP writer Jessie L. Bonner contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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