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Opinion >  Editorial

Idaho treasurer owes public some answers

It’s reasonable to ask why a state investment oversight committee hasn’t met in more than six years.

But Idaho Treasurer Ron Crane, chairman of the Credit Rating Enhancement Committee, isn’t talking about that or his office’s delay in posting notification of a Security and Exchange Commission violation.

A Spokesman-Review reporter has made repeated efforts to get answers from Crane, but he has refused to comment. That ought to set off alarm bells.

Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, has been on the committee for four years. In that time, it’s never met. When he saw the SEC reference in a July draft of the panel’s annual report, he started asking questions.

The issue involved the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, which incurred SEC infractions for reporting violations. “They made us sign a cease-and-desist order,” said John Sager, executive vice president and chief financial officer for IHFA.

Youngblood is a banker, so an order like that caught his attention. He asked whether the committee should meet to discuss it. Sager said yes. It didn’t happen.

Instead, the violation got a passing mention in the panel’s final report (dated July 31). The report itself wasn’t posted on the website until Nov. 15, and only after a legislative budget analyst asked about it.

Jace Perry, an investment accountant in the state treasurer’s office and secretary of the Credit Rating Enhancement Committee, said the report wasn’t immediately posted due to “an oversight.”

An oversight by the overseers? It’s possible, but Crane isn’t talking, which raises the suspicion that the problem could go deeper. Would the notice have been posted at all if someone hadn’t asked?

Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, who is on the committee, says he was worried that the SEC violation would be blown out of proportion, but he ultimately decided it ought to be disclosed. He also said the committee should be disbanded if it doesn’t hold meetings.

But it was formed for a reason: to bolster the state’s credit rating. National credit rating agencies said they were concerned that Idaho didn’t have a central way to track bonds issued by various agencies.

This isn’t the first time Crane has ducked questions. A couple of years ago, a state audit suggested he cost taxpayers more than $10 million when he made an inappropriate transfer between two funds. In his annual budget hearing before the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, in 2014, Crane was asked about the transfer, according to an Idaho Statesman article.

He declined to comment, referring legislative panelists to a written statement, which ascribed political motives to legislative auditors. The Spokesman-Review asked a University of Washington accounting professor to review the audit’s findings, and he called them “pretty convincing.’

It’s time for legislators to start asking questions again.

For starters, the credit-rating committee can end its six-year hiatus and hold a meeting. Members certainly have a lot to talk about.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on “Opinion.”

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