By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
The Ada County Commissioners have voted to appoint Raúl Labrador to the Central District Health Board of Health.
Labrador replaces former commissioner Diana Lachiondo, who lost the November election to Ryan Davidson. Previously, Labrador represented Idaho’s First Congressional District and served as chairman of the Idaho Republican Party.
At the meeting, Commissioner Kendra Kenyon expressed concern that Labrador’s name had been “teed up” ahead of time by the two other members of the board, raising concerns that her fellow commissioners had violated the open meeting law in the process. Labrador’s name was not on the original agenda, though he was present at the meeting and appeared prepared to accept the appointment. Commissioner Rod Beck made the nomination and had circulated Labrador’s biography to the other commissioners.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the two of you to make decisions without it being in an open forum,” Kenyon said. She also said normally, appointing volunteers to positions is a longer process, involving soliciting applications.
“I would like to see us open it up and see if anyone else wants to apply,” she said.
Under Idaho Open Meeting Law, governing bodies cannot make decisions outside of public meetings, and a quorum of members cannot deliberate on upcoming matters ahead of time.
Beck, who was sworn in on Monday with Davidson, said he and Davidson were approached separately about the appointment, and did not agree on Labrador ahead of time.
“I assure you there was no open meeting violation,” Beck said.
Beck also said he wasn’t aware of the regular process for appointing volunteers, but both he and Davidson agreed that the position vacated by Lachiondo should be filled as soon as possible.
“Both myself and Commissioner Beck decided perhaps we weren’t the perfect person to serve in that (position),” Davidson said. “We were both approached by Mr. Labrador, and just based on his experience and the sort of critical situation we’re in right now with the pandemic, I think that leans toward… expediting that appointment.”
Outside of pandemics, Board of Health appointments are normally non-controversial, with volunteers discussing “septic tanks, restaurant inspections and STDs,” as Kenyon said during the meeting. “I just want to make sure you’re in it for the long run,” she told Labrador.
Labrador said he was primarily interested in the position because of the board’s COVID response.
“I have watched over the last year as unelected officials have been making decisions that affect people’s lives in a most intimate way, and I have been watching how decisions that are supposed to be based on science become politicized,” Labrador said.
“I think the people of Ada County and the people of Idaho need somebody who has a little common sense,” Labrador said. “It seems like one group of people (on the board) seems to say everything they want to say because they’re the so-called experts, but we’re shutting down the debate and the opinions of other individuals.”
Labrador has been critical of the state’s COVID-19 response, appearing with Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin at a north Idaho bar that reopened early in violation of Gov. Brad Little’s Rebound Idaho plan. In April, Labrador also called on Little to fully reopen the state after the initial 21 day stay-at-home order expired.