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AG Labrador appoints special prosecutor in grant program probe

Kyle Green
/
Idaho Statesman

Attorney General Raúl Labrador has named Christopher Boyd, the Adams County elected prosecutor, as a special prosecutor in his lawsuit against the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

Boyd has held his elected position in Adams County since 2017, running unopposed in 2020. In an email Tuesday evening, Boyd said "I will endeavor to be diligent and fair and will make all decisions without fear, favor, or affection."

Earlier this month, Ada County District Judge Lynn Norton said Labrador must disqualify himself from the case, given that the AG’s office had advised IDHW on its administration of a federal pandemic grant program.

At issue is whether the grants could solely be awarded to programs serving children between the ages of 5-13, as the state legislature claims, or if recipients could also include older or younger children as long as that core age range was also served.

A legal opinion given to IDHW under the previous attorney general, Lawrence Wasden, sided with the agency, agreeing with the latter interpretation.

Labrador reversed that opinion months later.

“It does not matter if the legal opinions were subsequently disavowed or withdrawn,” Norton wrote in her Aug. 8 order. “What matters is that the legal advice was provided to IDHW as the client.”

This is the first of two cases in which Labrador has been ordered by a judge to assign a special prosecutor to avoid conflicts of interest.

The attorney general sued the Idaho State Board of Education over its use of executive sessions not open to the public this past spring to discuss the University of Idaho’s negotiations to purchase the University of Phoenix.

A deputy attorney general assigned by Labrador’s office advised board members those meetings were proper and legal.

But Matt Freeman, the board’s executive director, said he spoke openly and freely to Labrador during a phone call just hours before the attorney general filed the lawsuit, thinking he was covered by attorney-client privilege.

Ada County District Court Judge Jason Scott ruled Friday that Labrador must recognize his conflict of interest and assign a new prosecutor.

“The prospect that the Attorney General’s office could or would use client confidences in litigation against a client undermines the trust placed in the office by government agencies and the public alike,” Scott wrote in his opinion.

Labrador has until Sept. 5 to appoint that prosecutor in the board of education case. If he fails to do so, the suit will be dismissed and he would not be able to refile the claim.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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