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Eye On Boise

Otter’s office: Perry ‘brings a wealth of experience’ to sage grouse case

You can read my full story here at spokesman.com on how Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s chief lawyer was making $100,755 a year when he left the state last April, but the state’s paid him nearly half again as much just in the past two months.

That’s because Otter and top GOP legislative leaders have hired Tom Perry as the lead attorney on their sage grouse lawsuit, which challenges new land use rules that the U.S. Department of Interior issued when it decided not to list the sage grouse as endangered.

“It is important to note that the state isn’t just hiring Tom, we are also engaging his firm,” said Otter’s spokesman, Jon Hanian. “That said, Tom Perry brings a wealth of experience to this legal fight. This decision to hire his firm was made unanimously and in concert with legislative leadership.”

The state could have chosen to use the services of Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office and avoided charges for outside attorneys, but chose not to; Wasden’s office isn’t involved in the sage grouse suit. House Speaker Scott Bedke called Perry the most qualified choice to represent the state in the case, and said of the A.G.’s office, “They aren’t the regional experts on this subject.”

The Idaho Attorney General’s office employs 120 attorneys, including 21 in its Natural Resources Division. That division’s chief, Clive Strong, has more than 30 years experience, was honored as the 2014 Environment, Energy and Resources Government Attorney of the year by the American Bar Association, and was touted at the time by the University of Idaho College of Law as “one of the leading experts in water rights, state endowment lands, the Endangered Species Act and nuclear waste storage issues in the nation.”

Wasden’s Natural Resources Division has handled extensive endangered species litigation involving wolves, salmon, slickspot peppergrass and more. His office had no comment today.

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said, “It’s a bad deal.” He added, “If this was such an important thing to pursue, why was the governor not pursuing it out of his office, rather than having somebody who was on his staff leave, then be hired back at a higher pay? It doesn’t seem right.”



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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