U.S. Attorney Betty Richardson is defending herself against state Department of Law Enforcement director Robert Sobba’s criticism of a federal raid on the Clearwater County flood command center.
In a letter to Richardson dated last Thursday, Sobba said he was notified on July 17 that Federal Emergency Management Agency officers were in his department’s Lewiston office and getting ready to serve a search warrant on the flood command center in Orofino.
Sobba said when he talked to a FEMA agent over the phone he was told Richardson had advised the agent to take Idaho State Police troopers along on the July 18 raid.
Sobba said he was upset because the decision to assign troopers did not rest with Richardson, and professional courtesy dictated some effort to contact his office.
“This incident, along with the recent situation with the IRS agent in Rupert and the FBI’s efforts to impede our DNA program, has greatly strained relationships between the Department of Law Enforcement and federal agencies,” he wrote.
But Richardson said Tuesday that Sobba’s criticism was off the mark.
“I would place the highest priority on working in a coordinated and cooperative manner with state and local officials and I did in this case and I will continue to do so,” she said. “I think he got some bad advice.”
Agents confiscated 40 boxes of records from the command center, which was set up to coordinate local recovery efforts in the wake of serious 1996 flooding. Since the raid, more than a dozen county employees have been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury Aug. 12 in Boise.
U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, wrote to FEMA director James Lee Witt last week, asking why the office was raided when county officials assured her they would have opened the records and made copies for investigators.
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