Prosecutor closes investigation into open meeting issues with Labrador appointment

From the Idaho Press

By BLAKE JONES

BOISE — After investigating whether former U.S. Congressman Raúl Labrador’s appointment to the Central District Health board violated open meeting law, special prosecutor Bryan Taylor “found no evidence” of a legal breach.

The investigation stemmed from concerns that new Republican Ada County commissioners Rod Beck and Ryan Davidson illegally and privately discussed Labrador’s appointment outside of an open meeting in the weeks before they took office.

Kendra Kenyon — the commission’s lone incumbent and Democrat — expressed concerns the two had “teed up” the appointment outside of a quorum when Beck and Davidson introduced their pick for the health board last month, a day after they were sworn in. In response, Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts asked Taylor, the Canyon County prosecutor, to act as a special prosecutor in reviewing the matter.

Taylor dropped the investigation Tuesday, writing, “the Open Meeting Law does not, by its own terms, apply to discussions between candidates for office, commissioners-elect, or private parties,” in a letter to Bennetts. “Accordingly, I have found no evidence that (commissioners) engaged in deliberation towards a decision in violation of the Open Meetings Law.”

Because Beck and Davidson reportedly did not discuss backing Labrador in the 23 hours between their swearing in and announcing their pick for the seat, they did not commit a violation, Taylor wrote. That’s because they weren’t yet in office during related discussions, even though talks occurred after they were elected to the board in November.

After concern was raised, Beck and Davidson agreed to reconsider their pick a week after appointing Labrador, a move Beck said they made “out of an abundance of caution” in light of the investigation. The commissioners again backed Labrador in a subsequent vote, reappointing him 2-1 on party lines. Kenyon supported Dr. Sky Blue, an infectious disease expert.

In light of the commission reconsidering its nomination — a “self-recognition of any potential violation,” Taylor said — he doesn’t believe that “additional enforcement action could lead to any general advantage, additional process, or outcome opportunity not already afforded.”

“The Open Meetings Law treats the transparency of a decision’s process as inseparable from the substantive validity of that decision,” he wrote, “and prioritizes corrective remediation over punitive sanction.”

A majority of county commissioners in the four counties served by CDH approved Labrador’s appointment last week. His first meeting will be Feb. 19.

Labrador, an attorney at Skaug Law in Nampa, served in the Idaho Legislature from 2006 to 2010, in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2011 to 2019, and as the Idaho Republican Party chairman from 2019 to 2020.

From the Idaho Press

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