Report: State parcels out $10 million a year in legal work

The state is spending close to $10 million a year on outside legal counsel, and could save considerable money by adding staff to the attorney general’s office and keeping this work in-house.

That’s the conclusion from an independent report released Monday.

The Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations targeted three agencies that are doing the bulk of the state’s legal outsourcing: the Department of Health and Welfare, the Idaho Transportation Department and the Department of Administration.

The Administration Department’s risk management division spends about $1.5 million a year outsourcing legal work for all state agencies, including some $1.28 million in legal fees. Among the high-profile cases outsourced is one of the Administration Department’s own initiatives: the Idaho Education Network, the state’s high school broadband project. The state has paid outside attorneys more than $600,000 to defend the 2009 Idaho Education Network contract, according to Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review. A district judge declared the contract void in November, and the state is beginning the process of rebidding the contract.

The report recommends “incrementally increasing” the insourcing of Administration Department cases, in order to save taxpayer money.

Bell New
Rep. Maxine Bell

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee took no action on Monday’s report, except to ask auditors to report back in 2016 on how the state is parceling out its legal work.

But Rep. Maxine Bell, an oversight committee member and co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, said all agencies have lost staff since the recession. The top priority is restoring K-12 budgets.

“These other agencies will be lagging for some time,” said Bell, R-Jerome.

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