Community Blog: The EDge

Balukoff staffer yanked from Otter K-12 task force

A member of Gov. Butch Otter’s education task force has been excluded from the group’s followup work — because he is now working for one of Otter’s election-year opponents.

Mike Lanza
Mike Lanza

Mike Lanza — a paid member of Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff’s campaign staff — says he was told Monday that he had been pulled from one of the task force’s followup committees. The call came from Richard Westerberg, a member of the State Board of Education and the chairman of the original, 31-member task force that met in 2013.

Westerberg, like all State Board members, was appointed by Otter, a Republican.

“(Westerberg) said he didn’t want to ‘take the risk’ of having someone involved with a political campaign on the panel,” Lanza said Wednesday. “I asked him what exactly he saw as the risk. He gave me no further explanation, despite me pressing him to explain exactly what the ‘risk’ was.”

Richard Westerberg
Richard Westerberg

Westerberg wasn’t available for comment Wednesday morning. But State Board spokeswoman Marilyn Whitney confirmed that Westerberg considered Lanza a possible distraction, since he is working on Balukoff’s campaign.

“(He) felt it was problematic,” Whitney said Wednesday.

For more details, here’s a link to my story at Idaho Education News.

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

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