On appointments and interpretations of Idaho code

As Idaho Reports first reported Tuesday afternoon, Teresa Luna will resign as director of the Department of Administration at the end of the legislative session.

The announcement came after Idaho Reports asked why Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter hadn’t yet submitted an appointment letter for Teresa Luna or Idaho State Police director Col. Ralph Powell.

There are still lingering questions on the law regarding appointments and why Luna is resigning now.

State law spells out which directors the governor appoints; the Senate then confirms those appointments. So far this session, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has submitted appointment letters for directors Celia Gould, Gary Spackman, Ken Edmunds, Jeff Sayer, Gavin Gee, Curt Fransen, Sharon Harrigfield, Cassandra Jones, and Jeff Anderson, as well as numerous board and commission members.

Otter also hasn’t submitted an appointment for the director of the Department of Insurance; That position has been vacant since previous director Bill Deal’s retirement in late 2014.

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis told Idaho Reports on Tuesday morning that the Senate has not yet received an appointment letter from the governor’s office for Powell, but added he has been in talks with David Hensley, Otter’s chief of staff, on their interpretation of the law concerning appointments. Davis said he read the law as a re-appointment is necessary for a director to continue serving in the position after the governor’s term is over.

Luna and Powell were appointed during Otter’s second term, which ended in January. Otter was sworn in for his third term in early January. Many of the gubernatorial appointment letters for department directors came at the end of January or beginning of February.

“This is an area that, in my opinion, the statute is not a model of clarity,” Davis said.

Hensley wasn’t available for comment on Tuesday. Jon Hanian, spokesman for Otter, said the governor’s office considered Luna the director until the legislature adjourns for the session. “When they adjourn sine die, there will be a vacancy,” Hanian said.

Why is the interpretation important? Luna has made big decisions in her position in the last two months. In February, Luna signed an emergency contract with CenturyLink to provide up to $1.88 million for Internet services over the next six months after a judge voided the IEN contract.

The other big question: Why is Luna resigning now? Hanian declined to comment on whether Luna had offered her resignation or had been asked to resigned. Davis said Tuesday morning that as majority leader, he would support any appointment made by Otter, but he would also advise the governor if he didn’t think an appointment would pass the Senate confirmation process. Davis said he hadn’t advised the governor on confirmation votes for Luna or Powell.

Neither Luna or Powell could be reached for comment.

This week, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would tighten the timetable on gubernatorial appointments. Senate Bill 1112, sponsored by Davis, would require the governor to submit documents for re-appointment by the 36th day of the legislative session. That bill is heading to the House.

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