Former congressman Raul Labrador was appointed to the Central District Board of Health Tuesday, on a 2-0 vote from newly sworn-in Ada County Commissioners Ryan Davidson and Rod Beck. Commissioner Kendra Kenyon abstained from the vote after criticizing the process.
“I don't think that it's appropriate for the two of you to make decisions without it being an open forum like this and having a discussion,” she said during Tuesday’s meeting — the first as a full commission. “The fact that it's already been teed up to me is a little worrisome.”
In nominating Labrador, both Chairman Beck and Davidson referenced conversations they had outside of commission meetings regarding replacing Diana Lachiando on the board of health, following her election loss to Davidson.
“I determined this was a good fit,” Beck said of his nomination.
Kenyon, former commission chair, said the process of filling the seat typically includes time for anyone interested to apply for the volunteer position, and evaluation of multiple candidates. She acknowledged Labrador, who was in the room during the meeting, to make sure he understood her objections were not regarding his qualifications, but over the process with which her colleagues arrived at the nomination.
“It does worry me when I hear that the two of you,” Kenyon told Beck and Davidson, “were having conversations; because you were elected, that can be possibly an open meeting law violation.”
Beck and Davidson were sworn in as commissioners Monday. “I assure you there were no open meeting law violations,” Beck responded.
As he was already there, Labrador was invited to present to the commission why he would be a good fit for the board of health. He referenced the politicization of science and the need for someone who “has a little bit of common sense that understands” the impact board decisions can have on the public.
“We need to understand that decisions made by unelected bureaucrats should be checked by elected officials like you are,” he told county commissioners.
Labrador has not held elected office since 2018. He was chairman of the Idaho Republican party until last year.
Dr. David Pate, former St. Luke’s Hospital System President & CEO, and member of the state coronavirus advisory committee, noted the structure of Idaho’s seven public health districts hasn’t changed since it was created in the 1970s. The pandemic has amplified confusion over the role local board of health members play in the communities they serve.
“We’ve seen board members, who are charged with looking out for the health of people in their district, who have rejected basic public health principles,” Pate said. He noted Labrador, who he knows personally, is not one of those people.
“I’ve found [him] to be very good agreeing on the facts,” Pate said. “We’ve had very different perspectives on how the facts should be addressed,” he continued.
Pate noted the importance of having fact-based, rational discussions and says Labrador has always been able to have those kinds of conversations.
Labrador will join the Central District Board of Health beginning at its next meeting Friday, Jan. 15.
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