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Budget line overrun as men MacGregor once defended face prosecution in county

Expenses spike over ‘ironic’ trials

Idaho County Courthouse

Photo by David Rauzi
Idaho County Courthouse

— As part of a review of county spending midway through the current budget cycle, the Idaho County Commission recently had the prosecuting attorney account for a spending line that had over-topped the full-year amount the commission budgeted last summer.

Commissioner Mark Frei asked prosecuting attorney Kirk MacGregor to account for the amount the county has spent on for “conflict” prosecution since the current budget year began last October.

The main conflict prosecutor is Matt Jessup, who the county turns to when MacGregor would otherwise have to prosecute a person he had represented decades ago, during his stint as a criminal defense attorney. The county originally budgeted $8,000 for conflict prosecution, but had already spent $8,579 as the county has turned to Jessup much more than usual this year.

“When I first started as prosecutor, that was running really high and then over the years, it has gone down,” Idaho County prosecuting attorney Kirk MacGregor told the board Tuesday, May 1. “It’s just ironic that these cases…have come back, because those were really old. It was in the 1990s when I represented those two guys, but it’s a coincidence their cases have come up. … It’s unusual, but we had to have a prosecutor on that.”

MacGregor noted many counties hire a conflict prosecutor and said Idaho County has always decided against that.

“We don’t know what to budget for that,” MacGregor said. “It’s different every year.”

The board also asked MacGregor to account for providing more copies than a copier contract would allow, and to account for “miscellaneous expenses” which he said were related to three cases regarding child protective termination of parental rights.

As for the copying, MacGregor said it was necessary in response to discovery requests in a civil case.

As for the termination cases, MacGregor explained: “These were really severe abuse cases. I believe these cases were where parents had absconded. They took off and we didn’t know where they lived, so we had these high publication costs. … You have to personally serve them, or if you can’t, you have to publish notice of their termination in the newspaper of their last known address. … And to have three termination cases within six months is very unusual. Normally, there may be one a year.”

He said one of the publication expenses was especially high, in Aberdeen, Wash.

Last month, the Free Press reported the county is seeking grant money the state provides to cover a portion of local public defense expenses, and reported public records that list higher-than-usual public defense expenses have been budgeted for the Mark Lankford appeal.

Last November, the Free Press reported the court had ordered MacGregor off the case for the Lankford trial – but the expenses involved still come out of county budgets.

“How are we doing on Lankford expenses?” Frei asked MacGregor May 1.

“The Canyon County prosecutor’s office is doing it for meals and mileage,” MacGregor said. “They did ask me to approve hiring a tech person to download all of the materials on Lankford onto a couple discs. … I approved that.”

Idaho County clerk Kathy Ackerman pointed out that most of the expenses involved in that case so far have been on the public defense side, and expenses budgeted in the county prosecutor and county sheriff budgets may not be realized until the trial.

If there’s a trial.

MacGregor said it’s also possible the Lankford case could go to mediation – for which there would be an expense for hiring a mediator.

But: “If we don’t have a trial, we won’t be expending that,” Ackerman said. “There’s not really ongoing expenses at this point except the defenders working on the case.”


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