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Schools and nonprofits sue Idaho Attorney General over federal grant program investigation

Empty classroom with no students
Empty classroom with no students

A program that gave federal coronavirus grant money to groups and schools in Idaho is under scrutiny from state lawmakers and the Idaho Attorney General.

The Community Partner Grant Program was designed to address learning loss in kids ages 5-13 that happened due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 80 Idaho groups got the grants, from school districts in Marsing and Nampa to the United Way to the Boys and Girls Club, and spent it on kids.

But the Idaho Capitol Sun reported last month that some lawmakers in the Idaho Legislature raised concerns about the program. They’re worried that some of the money might have gone tokids under the age of five, instead of to kids 5-13, those lawmakers asked Idaho Health and Welfare, which was in charge of the program, foran audit of where the money went.

Fast forward to last week, when Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador sent what's known as Civil Investigative Demand to all the groups that got the grant demanding all the records, including personnel lists involved with the program.

On Wednesday, 35 of those school districts and nonprofits filed a complaint against Attorney General Labrador saying his actions were " an over-reach of government power."

Greg Chaney, a former republican member of the Idaho House and an attorney representing the plaintiffs, and Norm Stewart, the Superintendent of Marsing schools, who received one of the grants, joined Idaho Matters to talk more.

A quick note, we invited Attorney General Labrador or someone from his office to come on the show Thursday but due to the short notice, they told us they couldn’t make it. We’re hoping to have them on at a later date to talk about this case.

Update (2:03 p.m.):

The Idaho Attorney General's Office gave us this statement Thursday afternoon:

“This investigation is in its preliminary phase. A civil investigatory demand is a fact finding tool. The authority to issue a CID comes from Idaho Code Sections 48-1908, 48-1203 & 1204, and 48-611(11). We have had productive and cooperative conversations with several entities. Those who have cooperated understand that the purpose of the investigation is not to punish childcare providers but to enlist their help to determine whether state law was followed. We will zealously defend the powers the legislature has given us to ensure compliance with Idaho law.”

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