Investigation Uncovers Potential Crimes in Idaho’s Child Care Grant Program
Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador has appointed a prosecutor to investigate potential crimes committed within the state’s Department of Health and Welfare. Recent court filings reveal that there is probable cause to believe that a former employee, Ericka Rupp, who led a child care grant program, may have committed a crime. The specific details of the alleged crime and the evidence supporting the claim have not been disclosed.
Investigation into Grant Program
The investigation is focused on how $72 million of federal child care grants were spent in Idaho. The allegation of criminal activity was made in response to a request from Rupp for Labrador to pay her attorney fees. The prosecutor, Special Deputy Attorney General Christopher Boyd, cited a Legislative Services Office audit that found a lack of internal controls in the Department of Health and Welfare, leading to misspent grant funds. Boyd also mentioned information provided by unnamed individuals who cooperated with Labrador’s civil investigative demands.
Announcing the belief that someone has committed a crime in civil documents without specifying the crime is uncommon for a prosecutor. Legal experts argue that such accusations should be substantiated before being made. Rupp’s attorney dismissed the accusation as unverified and politically motivated.
Response from Idaho Officials
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesperson, Greg Stahl, defended Rupp, stating that she was an excellent employee and denying any wrongdoing. The department refused to submit a corrective action plan in response to the audit findings, disagreeing with all of them. However, the audit did refer the case to the Idaho Attorney General’s Office for possible misuse of public funds.
Boyd stated in court documents that the audit uncovered numerous significant failures and likely unlawful acts, providing probable cause for both civil and criminal violations. The state plans to seek search warrants and gather testimony to further investigate the intent and defenses of those involved.
Background of the Grant Program
The child care grants in question were distributed by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, with $36 million in federal funds allocated for this purpose in both 2021 and 2022. The grants were intended to address the impacts of the pandemic on school-aged children, including learning loss. In March, Labrador issued civil investigative demands after concerns were raised about funds being used for children under the age of 5.
Legal Clashes and Controversy
Labrador’s involvement in this investigation is part of a series of legal clashes he has had with state agencies since assuming the role of Idaho’s Attorney General. His actions have raised questions about his representation of the state health department and other agencies. His office has also sued the State Board of Education over alleged violations of the open meeting law.
Read More of this Story at idahocapitalsun.com – 2024-01-01 11:35:59
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