Election Central

Fulcher: Wasden’s right, investigate Prisongate despite Otter’s objection

A week after Gov. Butch Otter rebuffed Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s call for a criminal investigation into understaffing at the for-profit Idaho Correctional Center, Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher issued a statement backing Wasden.

Fulcher, R-Meridian, is seeking to deny Otter a third term in the May 20 GOP primary.

“It appears that prisoners and prison staff were put in jeopardy, and the people of Idaho have been misled,” Fulcher said in a news release.

“I applaud the Attorney General for standing up on this issue,” Fulcher continued. “Since last summer, state officials assured the people of Idaho a police investigation would be conducted. My hope is this investigation will clarify if there was a  lack of transparency and accountability.

“As governor, I will make transparency and accountability a top priority. The people of Idaho deserve answers and demand accountability.”

Otter, long a champion of privatization, reluctantly ordered in January that the state take over the 2,080-bed prison south of Boise when the nation’s largest prison company, Corrections Corporation of America, leaves town June 30. CCA has agreed to pay the state $1 million after admitting it falsified staffing records.

The Otter administration had said the falsifications were being investigated, but last week the Idaho State Police said no such inquiry occurred.

Acting on that news, Wasden recommended that “this matter be immediately referred to the Idaho State Police and the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for an investigation of any criminal wrongdoing.” Otter said no such inquiry was necessary, replying immediately in a hand-delivered letter to Wasden: “Thank you again for your recommendation.”

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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Posted in Election Central, Idaho Politics