Idaho Falls spent tens of thousands on attorneys for two recent cases

The Idaho Falls School District spent nearly $124,000 on attorneys’ fees in two legal cases that have made headlines over the past years, according to invoices obtained through a public records request.

That total includes $58,200 spent defending the district’s former superintendent, James Shank, and former communications director, Margaret Wimborne, against allegations that they violated the public integrity in elections act by using public dollars to promote a $250 million bond that ultimately failed in the November 2022 election. 

Bonneville County Prosecutor Randy Neal charged the district employees with the civil offense, and ordered them to pay a combined $375. 

Idaho Falls trustees decided to fight the finding in court. A settlement was reached late last year; the complaint against Wimborne was dismissed and the fine was reduced to $250. 

School leaders said at the time that they “were eager to resolve this matter in recognition of the increasing litigation costs for D91 taxpayers.” 

The district spent another $65,300 defending a $33 million plant facilities levy after the State Tax Commission ruled that it was illegal because the district already had another ongoing plant facilities levy. 

But an Ada County judge sided with the tax commission in November, and the district was not allowed to collect the taxes, which would have funded a new elementary school. 

Lawyers from Hawley Troxell, a well-known firm in education circles, represented the district in both cases. The invoices from Hawley Troxell were heavily redacted, including the itemized description of legal services.

Idaho Falls trustees recently made $4.3 million in cuts, which they said was necessary due to expiring COVID dollars, reduced state funding, overspending, and overstaffing. 

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro reports from her hometown of Pocatello. Prior to joining EdNews, she taught English at Century High and was a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. She has won state and regional journalism awards, and her work has appeared in newspapers throughout the West. Flandro has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and Spanish from the University of Montana, and a master’s degree in English from Idaho State University. You can email her at [email protected] or call or text her at (208) 317-4287.

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