New details in Parker arrest: Coconut oil, conflicting explanations, and a mystery woman

By Devon Downey, Idaho Reports

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When former Idaho Republican Party chairman Jonathan Parker was arrested for first-degree stalking late last month, the responding officers found him in the bushes wearing a long black wig and with coconut oil on his hands, prosecutors alleged during the probable cause hearing.

The individuals who notified police reported that there was a man in a wig seemingly masturbating in their bushes, and that they had seen him peering into their windows while hiding in their dumpster enclosure.

As previously reported, Parker told officers that he was there to “scare” another woman who lived in the complex. Prosecutors said that the responding officers were told that she was an individual whom Parker was dating.

When asked by officers where she was staying and where she was, he could not tell them. Officers were unable to make contact with her, and in the probable cause hearing, it was unclear who the woman was, or if officers knew her identity.

David Leroy, former Idaho Attorney General and attorney for Parker, had claimed during the arraignment hearing that Parker was outside of the protection order area.

However, prosecutors alleged during the probable cause hearing that Parker’s estranged wife lives 100 feet away from where he was found, violating the then 100-yard protection order his wife had. During Parker’s arraignment hearing, Judge Annie McDevitt extended the protection order to 500 feet.

Prosecutors made no reference to a costume party during the hearing, as Leroy claimed during the arraignment.

According to court records, Parker was released on bail. His next hearing will be held on Friday, June 14th.

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Idaho Supreme Court upholds state police whistleblower case, opens door to higher damages

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

The Idaho Supreme Court on Friday ruled firmly in favor of an Idaho State Police whistleblower, former crash reconstructionist Brandon Eller. In a unanimous decision, the court rebuffed claims that Eller’s case did not qualify under the state Whistleblower Act and reversed a previous decision to cap his damages. Read the ruling here.

Eller sued ISP in 2015 under the Whistleblower Act. He claimed his employer retaliated against him after he testified against a Payette County Sheriff’s deputy who was involved in a fatal crash while responding to a 911 call in 2011. That deputy was later charged for a time with felony vehicular manslaughter. Eller also objected to an ISP policy that directed officers to destroy all but the final drafts of crash reconstruction reports, raising concerns that it violated the law.

In his lawsuit, Eller claimed a commanding officer accused him of lying in the stand. He received a downgrade in his performance review, and ISP later reassigned him. Eller resigned in 2014.

A lower court ruled in Eller’s favor, with a jury awarding him $1.5 million in damages. ISP challenged that award and the district court reduced it to $1 million, citing the Idaho Tort Claims Act, which limits damages.

Both ISP and Eller then appealed the case to the Supreme Court. Along with disagreement over the damage cap, ISP argued Eller’s actions were “routine job performance” that when paired with his “speculative and unproven” concerns, didn’t qualify for whistleblower protection, Friday’s ruling states.

The ruling, written by Justice Richard Bevan, concludes both Eller’s involvement in the crash case and his later concerns clearly qualify him for the protections of the Whistleblower Act.

And in a decision with clear implications for other state whistleblower cases, Bevan said Eller’s damages should be governed by the Whistleblower Act, not the Tort Claims Act. The provisions of the former are more specific to this case, he wrote: “Idaho law provides: ‘Where a statute is clear and unambiguous, the expressed intent of the legislature shall be given effect without engaging in statutory construction.’ In addition, where two statutes conflict, courts should apply the more recent and more specifically applicable statute.

“… Rather than protect individuals as victims of general governmental torts and damages—as under the ITCA — the Whistleblower Act provides an unambiguous ‘legal cause of action for public employees who experience adverse action from their employer as a result of reporting waste and violations of a law, rule or regulation,’” the opinion says.

One key difference between the two statutes: The Whistleblower Act doesn’t limit damages, while ITCA limits damages to $500,000 for each claim. Eller had two claims against ISP. The Supreme Court ordered the lower court to revisit Eller’s damages under the Whistleblower Act, without the $500,000-times-two limit.

In other words, this case could get a lot more expensive for ISP.

Nate Poppino contributed to this report.

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IDHW recommends eliminating 12 of 83 rule chapters

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has identified 12 administrative rules chapters that it says are no longer needed — and is bracing itself for a potential huge workload in upcoming months.

During the Thursday IDHW board of directors meeting, Tamara Prisock, Division Administrator for Licensing and Certification, said IDHW currently has 83 chapters of rules. After the 2019 Legislature didn’t reauthorize administrative rules at the end of the session, Gov. Brad Little instructed each department to review its existing rules and make recommendations as to which the state should keep. (Read about that fight here.)

Over the last month, IDHW reviewed each of the existing 83 chapters, and found 12 that were either redundant, as they were addressed elsewhere in statute or other rules, or no longer needed, as they were written for programs that no longer exist. Click here for a list of those chapters, as well as the justifications for eliminating them.

The process doesn’t allow for going through the rules with a fine-tooth comb and eliminating individual lines. Instead, departments had to consider entire chapters.

“In the reauthorization, it had to be all or nothing,” Prisock said.

But that isn’t the end of the work, Prisock said. At the beginning of June, each agency will publish two notices: One that lists all fee rule chapters, and one that lists all non-fee rule chapters, that the state wants to reauthorize. Though many of those rule chapters have been in place for decades, they will all be listed as temporary proposed rules.

As temporary proposed rules, each will be subject to a 3-week public comment period. During that comment period, if 25 or more people request a public hearing on an individual chapter, the department is required to have one, Prisock said.

“There could be a significant amount of work that comes out of publishing those two notices in June,” she said.

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Birth certificate gender change fight not yet over

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports 

The fight over changing gender markers on birth certificates isn’t yet over.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Board of Directors voted to require sign-off from a medical or mental health professional for minors who want to change the gender markers on their birth certificates.

An earlier proposal would have required all applicants, regardless of age, to get medical approval before changing their birth certificates. That original draft came from the legislature, though it wasn’t clear at the meeting which lawmakers, or how many, supported the idea. 

After discussion, deputy attorney general Nicole McKay drafted language to make the proposal specific to minors.

Last year, IDHW changed its rules to allow applicants to change the gender marker on their Idaho-issued birth certificates. The change was the result of a 2017 lawsuit from two plaintiffs who were not allowed to change their birth certificate. Read the complaint here.

Sen. Fred Martin, a member of the board and chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, told the board that the discussion over changing birth certificates has been “contentious” among his fellow lawmakers.

“Individually, I’m most concerned about minors. So I would hope that what the board does and comes forward would most affect those that need the most protection. To me that would be a minor,” Martin said. “Are we going to have consensus? No. But I would encourage something to put a step between the individual and that change, especially as it relates to minors.”

James Aydelotte, state registrar at the Bureau of Vital Statistics, said of the 101 applications for gender change since April 6, 2018, 15 of those have been for minors younger than 18 years old.

Peter C. Renn, Kara Ingelhart, and Monica Cockerille, the attorneys who represented the original plaintiff in the 2017 lawsuit, wrote to the board to object to the original proposal.

“The proposed revisions are not consistent with the Court’s March 5, 2018 order,” the attorneys wrote. “The Court recognized the ‘potential implications of restrictions and restraints IDHW may place on the ability of transgender people to apply for and receive approval of applications to change the sex listed on their birth certificates.’”

“It then cautioned against any rule that would ‘subject one class of people to any more onerous burdens than the burdens placed on others without constitutionally-appropriate justification — for instance, to apply for a change in paternity information the applicant is not required to submit medical evidence, such as DNA confirmation, to prove paternity or non-paternity,'” the letter continued. “Despite the Court specifically citing the example of ‘medical evidence’ as an unjustified burden, the proposed revision would now expressly require such ‘medical evidence.’”

The board debate focused on whether a birth certificate change is a medical decision or a family decision, and how much the government should be involved in it. Some debate also centered on potential litigation, which the board discussed in executive session. 

Board member Timothy Rarick, who made the motion to approve the amended rule change, said minors often question gender roles and identity as a normal part of development, but most often settle on an identity that conforms with their biological sex.

But some were skeptical that the change was needed.

I and the ACLU would be very interested in understanding what that rationale is,” Kathy Griesmyer, policy director for ACLU-Idaho, told Idaho Reports at the meeting. “At this point, the system seems to be working, so why put people through an additional burden?”

Emilie Jackson-Edney, who also attended the meeting, said she isn’t entirely opposed to the idea of requiring a medical sign-off. Jackson-Edney pointed to federal documents, such as passports, which currently require an affidavit for gender changes.

That said, transgender patients seeking health care in rural Idaho could run into issues, both with general access and with finding providers who understand trans-specific issues, Edney-Jackson said. This proposal, she added, could put an additional burden on an already marginalized community.

It could be really difficult for them to access that kind of health care,” she said. 

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About that transmittal letter…

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

When Gov. Brad Little posted the transmittal letter for the Medicaid work requirements legislation, several reporters (this one included) noticed that the letter itself read like a veto. It outlined multiple issues Little had with the bill, and instructed lawmakers to continue working on the issues.

Idaho Reports did a public records request for all drafts of the transmittal letter, as well as communications regarding the letter.

Those drafts show that Little’s staff wrote the letter the day before he signed it without the key line “with my approval,” and didn’t insert that line until the morning of. Instead, an ellipsis acted as a placeholder in that sentence while Little’s staff members worked out the rest of the letter.

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An April 8th draft of the Senate Bill 1204 aa, aaH transmittal letter.

 

That key phrase “with my approval” wasn’t added until April 9, the morning Little released his letter. In an 9:36 am e-mail, two hours before the letter was posted,  chief of staff Zach Hauge asked communications director Emily Callihan to “add language that the Governor has signed.”

Idaho governors have three options on how to handle a bill: Sign it, veto it, or let it become law without their signature. (The latter is often used to show disapproval.)

In an interview with Gov. Brad Little that aired on April 26th, Idaho Reports asked if these drafts were an indication that he hadn’t yet decided how he would handle the legislation. He said no.

“The transmittal letter means by its very nature that I’m signing the bill,” he said. “You look at every transmittal letter I wrote, I only sent a transmittal letter if I had an issue with that bill.”

Little acknowledged in both the letter and in the Idaho Reports interview the multiple issues he saw with the bill. You can read the final letter here. 

In the Idaho Reports interview, Little said he does not believe the federal government will approve all the waivers, particularly the work requirement and the copay provisions.

“Frankly, CMS and the US Department of Health and Human Services, they’re having a change of heart on some of those issues, so it’s hard to tell,” Little said.  

For the full interview, watch the April 26th episode of Idaho Reports at idahoptv.org/idreports.

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Analysis: Legislature cedes rulemaking approval to Little

By Melissa Davlin

Over the last several years, the Idaho Legislature has paid closer attention to the administrative rulemaking process — a critical bureaucratic function of the government in which departments and divisions create rules that specify how certain statutes are carried out.

But in an attempt to center more power with the Legislature, the House and Senate just surrendered significant authority to Gov. Brad Little.

At the end of the 2019 session, the legislature failed to reauthorize the state’s existing rules, as they normally do every year. The reason: A fight between the House and Senate over how those rules should be approved. Currently, just one body’s vote ensures a rule is approved. The House wanted both bodies to sign off to save a rule from rejection, giving the legislature more control over the process.

Without any action from Little and his staff, all 8,000-plus pages of those administrative rules would expire at the end of the fiscal year on July 1.

Instead of calling a special session to make lawmakers finish their homework, however, Little is using his executive authority to re-up those rules. And in the process, “Governor Little ultimately will make the decision before July 1 whether to let a rule expire,” according to a Tuesday press release from his office. 

Administrative rules have the full force of law, and cover a wide range of topics — which immunizations school children need, what types of medications pharmacists are allowed to dispense, what an electrician needs to do to get a license. Common core curriculum is in administrative rules, as are the hotly debated climate change standards.

While Little has said he didn’t want this to happen, and that he doesn’t plan any major changes, he still has ultimate authority over which rules will carry over into the next fiscal year.

Agencies will also get the chance to weigh in.

“Governor Little’s administration will use the unique opportunity to allow some chapters of Idaho Administrative Code that are clearly outdated and irrelevant to expire on July 1, 2019,” the press release states. “An agency must notify the Division of Financial Management (DFM) if it identifies a rule that could be eliminated. DFM will solicit public comment on any proposed rule elimination.”

In a fight over an obscure bureaucratic process, this could either set a wild precedent for future years, or teach the legislature to finish its chores before leaving to play.

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Voter initiatives and administrative rules bill DOA in Senate, Winder says

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

While the House was at ease to add in amendments to Senate Bill 1205 — changing the Senate legislation into a previously rejected House version that would force both bodies to approve administrative rules — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder told reporters in no uncertain terms that the amended bill was dead on arrival.

Why? First of all, the Senate had already rejected the House’s proposal about two months ago, Winder said. He also cited previous administrative rules fights, such as one over whether climate change should go into Idaho’s public school curriculum.

“In that case, I think common sense prevailed,” Winder said. He doesn’t want to give the House more authority over the rules.

Also dead on arrival? House Bill 303, which resurrects part of the previously vetoed voter initiative bill. Winder said he supports the idea of the legislation, which would require initiatives to have a fiscal note and funding source, as well as focus on a single topic. But, he said, it’s too late in the session to consider it. Expect it to come back next year.

Does the House have any recourse? They just passed their last appropriations bill — the budget for the State Board of Education — but they will have to approve the trailer bills for the Medicaid work requirements appropriations passed out of the joint budget committee on Tuesday.

In other words, this isn’t over yet. (But all signs point to sine die. And we all hope that’s the case.)

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