Ada County rejects doctor for health board appointment, reappoints Raúl Labrador

Posted at 11:55 AM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 11:43:26-05

This article was originally published by Hayley Harding in the Idaho Statesman.

The Ada County Commission picked a lawyer with no medical experience.

New Commissioners Rod Beck and Ryan Davidson, both Republicans, reconfirmed their controversial selection last week of Raúl Labrador, a former U.S. congressman and former state GOP chair, during the commission’s meeting Tuesday. Commissioner Kendra Kenyon, a Democrat, voted against it.

That appointment was controversial for two reasons. The first: Labrador has repeatedly said he is against COVID-19 lockdowns. He called the use of masks “overrated,” came under fire last month after being photographed at a Boise mall while not wearing a mask, and was heavily criticized in 2017 when, during a Lewiston town hall, he said that “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”

The second: It appeared the decision had been made by the new GOP majority on the three-person commission outside of a public meeting, which could be a violation of Idaho’s open meeting laws. Canyon County Prosecutor Bryan Taylor is acting as a special prosecutor to review whether any laws have been violated. Many expressed concern after commissioners said they had been approached by Labrador about serving on the board.

Beck, the commission chair, insisted during the meeting that no laws had been violated.

Several doctors came forward to be considered for the board, which makes health recommendations for Ada County as well as Boise, Elmore and Valley county. But it was Dr. Sky Blue, who specializes in infectious diseases, who spoke to the commission about his qualifications in person on Tuesday after Kenyon said his name came up again and again from medical experts in the area.

Blue sees patients through Sawtooth Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases, an independent physician-owned practice, the Statesman reported Saturday. He also is the medical director of the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho’s Wellness Center, which provides care to patients with HIV/AIDS.

Labrador is a lawyer with Skaug Law in Nampa who has been involved in Idaho politics for years. He was a member of the Legislature representing District 14, which includes Eagle and Star, for two terms. He then represented Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, which covers western Idaho from Canada to Nevada, including all of Canyon County and the western part of Ada County, for eight years in the U.S. House.

Labrador was the chairman of the Idaho Republican Party from 2019 to 2020, when he resigned to start practicing law again.

He said last week that he wanted to be appointed to the board so that he could be “somebody who has a little bit of common sense” on the political, scientific and personal implications of COVID-19.

“I think clearly, Dr. Blue is a better candidate than Mr. Raúl Labrador,” Kenyon said.

Davidson said he worried about “monopolizing” an infectious diseases expert’s time with concerns like septic tanks, which are part of the board’s responsibility. Beck said his reading of Idaho code is that a district board of health cannot have more than one member of a profession on the board, and Ted Epperly, a doctor, is already on the board.

Epperly’s term expires later this year, Beck said. Beck asked if Blue would be interested in filling that spot instead. Blue said he would consider it.

The appointment must now go to county commissioners of the other counties represented by Central District Health’s board. That process can take a few weeks. If seven votes affirming Labrador come in, he will be on the board.

The new appointee may receive payment of $75 per day, according to state law.No formal public health training is required for board members beyond an orientation process, Myron said.

Watch the full meeting here.