Not one more dime on Boise police investigation until $500,000 is accounted for

The law firm investigating whether racism infected the Boise Police Department has blown through $500,000 of Boise taxpayer money in just three months.

And now that firm, Steptoe & Johnson, wants another $150,000 to finish the job.

That request is scheduled to go before Boise City Council members Tuesday night. The item is on the council’s consent agenda, which is usually approved without discussion.

Not so fast.

Before City Council members approve one more dime, they need to get a full accounting of what Steptoe has spent the $500,000 on.

At the recommendation of Boise Mayor Lauren McLean, the city of Boise last year hired by Steptoe & Johnson after it was discovered that retired Boise police captain Matt Bryngelson espoused deeply racist beliefs.

It turned out he was the author under a pseudonym of racist screeds, had done an interview in which he expressed those racist views and was a guest speaker at a white supremacy convention.

This editorial board supported a thorough investigation to see whether Bryngelson’s racist attitudes had infected his work, recruiting, promoting and treating suspects; whether racist or white supremacist views infected the behavior of other officers; and whether other department members had espoused similar views.

Bryngelson had been with the department for 24 years and had risen through the ranks to captain.

But we had expressed reservations about the contract when it was approved in December, especially about the process that went into determining the amount of the contract and selecting the law firm to conduct it.

We would have preferred a slower, more deliberate process.

According to Steptoe’s contract with the city, the lawyers involved were to be paid $825 per hour up to a total of $500,000 over the entire year of the review, which was expected to wrap up by the end of 2023. Other hourly workers, including paralegals, could make up part of that total, according to a letter to city officials from Steptoe lead investigator Michael Bromwich.

At $825 per hour, that would translate to 606 hours, or 10 weeks at 60 hours per week, for attorney fees.

Some very specific and detailed questions need to be answered. How much was spent on actual work and how much on expensive dinners and overnight stays at posh hotels? Are police officers stonewalling the law firm’s inquiries? Are the investigators dragging their feet?

Blowing through $500,000 in three months should not make anyone confident that this is responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Shelling out another $150,000 on the consent agenda without an explanation is unacceptable.

City Council members need to be asking some very specific questions and getting very detailed answers.

Otherwise, the answer as whether to shell out another $150,000 should be simple: a sounding no.

Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion of the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board. Board members are opinion editor Scott McIntosh, opinion writer Bryan Clark, editor Chadd Cripe and newsroom editors Dana Oland and Jim Keyser.

Leave a Comment