Special prosecutor chosen in Idaho Attorney General’s child care grant investigation

Appointment comes one week after an audit found flaws in how the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare distributed grant funds

By: - August 30, 2023 4:37 pm
Picture of Idaho Attorney General Raúl R. Labrador smiling in the Capitol building a few days after being sworn in

Idaho Attorney General Raúl R. Labrador at the State Capitol building on January 9, 2023. Before his election in 2022, Labrador served as a U.S. congressman, a state legislator, an Idaho Republican Party leader and a trial attorney. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office chose a special prosecutor in an investigation into child care grant funds.

Adams County Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Boyd was appointed Tuesday as special deputy attorney general on the cases, he told the Idaho Capital Sun in an email. 

Ada County Judge Lynn Norton earlier this month barred Attorney General Raúl Labrador from pursuing the civil investigative demands the Attorney General’s Office issued to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Her order centered on legal guidance the Attorney General’s Office provided to the state health department that said the department’s use of the funds didn’t violate guidelines.

“The Attorney General cannot now seek to investigate IDHW and its employees’ actions since the IDHW request for a legal opinion made the IDHW a client of the Attorney General on this same case,” Norton wrote.

Boyd is a “conservative prosecutor who cares deeply for constitutional rights,” according to his biography on the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association website. Boyd has served as Adams County prosecutor since 2018, he said.

“While I naturally cannot comment on any pending cases, I can say that I will endeavor to be diligent and fair and will make all decisions without fear, favor, or affection,” Boyd told the Idaho Capital Sun in an emailed statement.

Boise State Public Radio first reported on the appointment.

Audit has different rules than a court would apply

Labrador’s appointment comes more than a week after an audit found flaws in how the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare distributed tens of millions of dollars in child care grants to organizations. The state health department disagreed with all the report findings.

The audit found that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare was not in compliance with state law in its distribution of the child care grants. But the report doesn’t state clearly that state law was broken, said April Renfro, who oversaw the report and manages the Legislative Audit Division of Legislative Services Office. 

The audit, instead, flags the issue for law enforcement to investigate, reporting it to the Attorney General’s Office.

“What we do is different than what a court does. …” Renfro, who is a certified accountant and not an attorney, told the Idaho Capital Sun in a phone interview. “But a court is definitely looking at things through legal standards and legal interpretations.” 

Auditors looked to whether the agency complied with guidelines in state law or rules and requirements from the organization that offered the grants or by the state Legislature, Renfro said. Auditors also looked into whether proper internal controls to comply with requirements were in place, she said.

“When we made our conclusion, I just want to be clear, that our main point was we identified a lack of internal controls,” Renfro said.

The Idaho Attorney General’s office told the Capital Sun in a statement that the audit “confirms there were violations of Idaho law.”

“The report records numerous serious violations, and we welcome their referral under Idaho Code, Section 67-702(1)(e). We are now evaluating our next steps under both civil and criminal law,” the Idaho Attorney General’s Office said.

The Legislative Services Office did not consult an attorney or other state agencies in conducting the audit, Renfro said. LSO staff interpreted applicable laws, rules and regulations for the audit, which they typically do, Renfro said.


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