Statesman Editorial: After CCA mess, Otter should focus on transparency

After years of speculation and a 15-month federal investigation that overlapped two contentious Idaho legislative sessions and a combative state election cycle, the word has come down that no criminal charges will be filed by the U.S. attorney in the matter of the Corrections Corporation of America misstating staffing rosters for their client, the Idaho Correctional Center, between 2008 and 2014.

Falsified records by “low-level CCA employees” who had no intent to defraud the Idaho Department of Corrections were the reason for the bookkeeping discrepancies. Furthermore, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson concluded that there was no evidence that “state employees at the Idaho State Police, the IDOC or the Governor’s Office sought to delay, hinder or corruptly influence a state criminal investigation.”

This is not to say that ISP, IDOC and the Gov. Butch Otter administration might yet be criticized with degrees of bungling in this and other matters. There were some ugly and confusing twists and turns beginning in early 2014 as this one played out.

CCA has been just one of the clouds following Otter, especially since the governor agreed to a controversial $1 million civil settlement with the prison contractor in February of 2014 before any CCA investigation had barely begun. We simply will never know whether that shotgun-divorce arrangement was the best deal the state could have cut with CCA.

We’d like to hear more about what’s going on with our prisons. There is new leadership on the Prison Board and at IDOC, yet we are unable to get anybody from that sector to sit with the Statesman Editorial Board to share with us where the system is headed in the post-CCA era.

There is an opportunity here for Otter and the rest of us to put CCA behind and focus on some other clouds.

As soon as any remaining legal hurdles are cleared, Otter should allow a similar independent investigation of the mess that developed over the Idaho Education Network contract so such a series of events will never be repeated. In fact, since the Legislature fell short of instituting a clear set of contract protocols, Otter should have more time and energy now to work on that with his new cabinet officers.

We need a fresh gust of transparency to blow away some of these clouds.

Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.