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AG's office files charges against former Jerome County Sheriff Doug McFall

JEROME — The Idaho Attorney General’s Office filed charges Tuesday against former Sheriff Doug McFall.

McFall told the Times-News on Friday that he had not been contacted by the Attorney General’s Office, but heard about the charges when a Boise television station contacted him.

According to court documents obtained by the Times-News through a public records request, the AG’s office claims McFall committed the crimes of aiding and abetting grand theft, a felony; misuse of public moneys, a felony, and petit theft, (two counts) a misdemeanor.

“I’m shocked,” County Commissioner Charlie Howell said late Friday afternoon. Howell had heard rumors, but said he hadn’t taken them seriously.

McFall turned in a letter of resignation in January, saying he was building a home in Twin Falls County and would be moving. He turned in his badge Wednesday.

Spokesman Scott Graf of the AG’s office confirmed in January that McFall was being investigated, but because the investigation was ongoing, Graf was unable to elaborate.

In May, McFall asked county commissioners for an attorney to represent him in an investigation by the AG’s office. County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Seib denied the request, saying the request was “premature,” according to the meeting’s minutes.

McFall denied any wrongdoing.

“Most of it’s just (untrue),” he told the Times-News in late June. “But it looks poorly on your record.”

The investigation began about the time a former employee with the sheriff’s office was accused of taking money intended for undercover drug buys. Former-Lt. Dan Kennedy pleaded guilty to the charge in September.

“Right after the Kennedy deal, the AG’s office got an anonymous complaint,” McFall told the Times-News in early January.

“They had a bunch of questions for me about my travel for the sheriff’s office. I get calls day and night — I’m in my county vehicle all the time.”

McFall began his career in law enforcement in 1984 with the Idaho State Police. He retired in 2008 and ran for sheriff that fall. McFall was re-elected in 2016 to his third term.

Charges against Doug McFall

Dentist on wheels: Mobile clinic brings care to low-income children

TWIN FALLS — After watching her older sister get fluoride varnish applied to her teeth, 3-year-old Trashal Rai started crying when it was her turn.

The Nepalese sisters weren’t in a traditional dentist’s office. Instead, they were receiving care in a mobile clinic parked along a curb outside Family Health Services‘ Twin Falls medical clinic.

Dental hygienist Lindsey Taylor used a translator phone — with an interpreter on the line — to help communicate with the family.

The mobile dentist’s office, part of the Idaho Children’s Health Project, brings dental care to low-income children and families. It helps reach patients who may have never been to a dentist, may not have transportation, or who have language or cultural barriers to seeking care.

Typically, the mobile clinic is parked in a rented space at Kimberly Nurseries Landscape & Irrigation when it’s not on the road. But in August, a pilot program began to bring it to Family Health Services’ Twin Falls medical clinic on Wednesdays.

“If it’s effective, we’d bring it here every day,” said Adam Hodges, dental director for Family Health Services and the Idaho Children’s Health Project, a program of Children’s Health Fund.

On Wednesdays, Taylor goes into the medical clinic and pops into exam rooms. She asks patients whether they’ve received dental care or have any dental concerns. Once the appointment is over, she’ll take a family into the mobile clinic for treatment.

As a dentist, Hodges — who started Family Health Services’ dental program in 2005 — said his number one goal is to “get people healthy and keep them healthy.” And his biggest joy is seeing a patient who doesn’t need any dental work.

That’s not always realistic, though. One-in-five children in the United States have cavities by the time they enter kindergarten, but Hodges says that’s completely preventable. Another challenge is there’s no requirement for Idaho children to receive a dental exam before enrolling in school.

When dental problems aren’t treated and get worse, a lot of money is spent in emergency rooms and students end up missing school, Hodges said.

To combat those issues, the mobile clinic — staffed by Hodges, dental hygienists and a driver — go to Head Start sites and schools for dental sealant clinics. Those often happen in the fall.

Hodges spent eight years, starting in 2007, with the mobile clinic as his primary office. He traveled mostly in Buhl, Twin Falls and Jerome, but the clinic has been all over south-central Idaho.

The mobile clinic hasn’t been used on a full-time basis in a couple of years. But there’s a chance that could eventually change.

It’s outfitted with two dental chairs and $30,000 worth of x-ray equipment, which requires an 8-foot clearance, so a skylight was installed in the vehicle to provide extra height capacity.

Over more than a decade, it has been remodeled three times, and was originally used to provide both medical and dental services. It was even used to help during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast in 2005.

In 2007, the vehicle was gutted and remodeled to become a dental-only clinic.

The Idaho Children’s Health Project is looking at new opportunities for using the mobile clinic, especially in Blaine County. Hodges has seen a lot of families who’ve taken time off work and school to come to the mobile clinic when it’s in Jerome.

Family Health Services wants to have a physical clinic building in Blaine County, Hodges said, but can’t get funding. If the mobile clinic went up there a few days a week and helped a lot of community members, he said, it could help justify the need.

Family Health Services provides medical, dental and behavioral health care on a sliding fee scale dependent on income. The community health clinics serve those with or without health insurance.

Future plans for the mobile dental clinic are still up in the air, but patients at the Twin Falls medical clinic can count on continuing to receive curbside dental help.

Stand Your Ground bill passes Idaho Senate

BOISE — A bill that would update Idaho’s self-defense law to reflect legal standards established by the judiciary has passed the Senate 29-6.

SB 1313, one of two “Stand Your Ground” bills introduced this session, puts standards that already exist in case law and jury instruction into code. Proposed changes include adding expanding the definition of justifiable homicide in Idaho law to include not only defending one’s home against an intruder, but also defending one’s place of employment or an occupied vehicle.

Supporters of the bill, including Twin Falls Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs, say it would clarify legal self-defense rights for everyday citizens who aren’t familiar with case law or jury instruction.

Opponents of the bill, which include the ACLU of Idaho, point to increases in justifiable homicides in states that have enacted “Stand Your Ground” legislation and data suggesting that racial minorities are disproportionately affected by such laws.

Putting the principles into law would provide “a better location for individuals to look and understand these rights of self-defense in Idaho,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Todd Lakey (R-Nampa), during the Senate debate Friday morning. “It also preserves and protects these principles so the courts continue to apply them as the legislature intended.”

Debate for and against the bill was divided along party lines, with Republicans Sen. Dan Foreman of Moscow, Sen. Jim Rice of Caldwell, Sen. Steve Vick of Dalton Gardens and Sen. Marv Hagedorn of Meridian debating in favor of SB 1313.

Democrats Sen. Michelle Stennett of Ketchum, Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb of Boise and Sen. Grant Burgoyne of Boise debated against the bill.

Stennett said she worried that enacting a Stand Your Ground law would encourage impulsive use of lethal force, potentially endangering innocent people and the public.

“In essence, we’re codifying presumptions,” Stennett said. “Law enforcement presumes innocence by law and so do the courts. This bill has an untrained person assume harm and guilt before innocence.”

SB 1313 will now go the House.

After five years at the helm, Xavier's school administrator Gary Moon is stepping down

TWIN FALLS — After five years at the helm, Xavier Charter School administrator Gary Moon is stepping down after this school year.

He announced his decision Thursday in a letter to school employees and parents. He wants to spend more time with his family and plans to search for a school principal job.

“I have loved my last five years at XCS and am extremely proud of the progress that we have made and the accomplishments that we have achieved in that time,” Moon wrote, adding he’s leaving on excellent terms with the school board and staff.

His last day is June 30.

“I’m very sad because I think Gary has been an extremely effective administrator and a very great fit for our school,” school board chairwoman Debbi Burr said.

But she said she truly understands Moon’s desire to spend more time with family. It was a conversation Moon had with the school board for a while, Burr said. “I don’t think he made the decision very lightly.”

Xavier’s school board is now searching for a new “head of schools” — essentially, a superintendent and kindergarten through sixth-grade principal. The position will remain open for several weeks and interviews will be conducted by a team of school trustees, lead teachers and faculty members.

Burr said she hopes to have a new administrator in place this spring to have some overlapping time with Moon before his departure.

The public charter school, which opened in 2007, has more than 700 students in kindergarten through 12th grades.

Xavier is also moving toward a new administrative structure for next school year and will hire an additional administrator — a seventh through 12th grade principal. Moon said there’s a possibility he could move into that position.

“My strengths, abilities, and interests lie in being a building principal,” he wrote in the letter to school employees and parents. “I have many years of experience as a building principal and that is the position that I will seek.”

The new Xavier school principal will handle tasks such as teacher evaluations and student discipline to “remove it from the plate of the one and only administrator,” Burr said.

In his letter, Moon writes he has spent more time away from his family over the last few years — including nights, weekends and over vacations — to lead Xavier.

“I am in no way complaining about that, I understand that is what the position calls for,” he wrote. “I am at a point in my life that I do not want the time and relationships with my family to continue to suffer. I have a relatively short period of time with my youngest before he will be out of the house and it is important to me that I get to be there for him as much as possible as I was for my oldest children.”

His job includes being superintendent, principal, as well as overseeing other key areas of the school’s operations, such as federal programs, transportation, and maintenance and grounds.

“The position I have, it’s a lot of responsibility,” Moon told the Times-News on Friday. “You wear a lot of hats…. In a lot of other schools, those are divided out a little bit.”

Even before Moon announced his departure, the school board discussed the need to make a change to the school’s administrative structure as enrollment continues to grow, Burr said.

As he reflected on his time as Xavier administrator, Moon said: “I’m very proud of what we’ve done in five years.” When he arrived at Xavier, the school often made headlines for “not very good, positive things,” he said.

There was a lot of administrative turnover in the school’s early years. And in 2012, the school received a notice of defect from the Idaho Public Charter School Commission for “failure to demonstrate financial soundness.”

The school nearly closed after struggling with high rent costs. But things turned around. The school reached an agreement in February 2013 with its landlord. And in April 2015, the school board finalized a deal to buy the building for $6.5 million.

Now, “we’re financially more sound than we’ve ever been,” Moon said. He also pointed to high student test scores as an achievement. “I’m proud of those things. I feel like we’re in a much better place.”


Dietrich senior Kade Shaw, left, and sophomore Raygn Robertson, right, dive for a loose ball as Genesis Prep junior Jonny Hillman tries to grab it on Friday during the 1A-DII boys state basketball tournament at Rocky Mountain High School in Meridian. Genesis Prep defeated Dietrich 68-59.


Trump leaves lawmakers hanging on gun priorities

WASHINGTON — In his quest to tackle gun violence, President Donald Trump has ricocheted between calling for tougher laws and declaring his fealty to the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, leaving a trail of befuddled lawmakers and advocates in his wake.

One thing he still has not done: clearly outline his legislative priorities.

Washington’s week closed Friday without further explanation from the president, the White House indicating that for now, at least, he is backing an incremental proposal on background checks and a bill that would provide new federal dollars to stem school violence.

Just what Trump would like to see in the “beautiful” and “comprehensive” bill he called for earlier in the week remained unclear. That comment came at a bipartisan meeting with lawmakers Wednesday, which was quickly followed by a private session with the National Rifle Association on Thursday.

“Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!” Trump tweeted Thursday night.

He had outlined some of his preferences via Twitter earlier Thursday, saying that both good and bad ideas had come out of the bipartisan meeting. He said: “Background Checks a big part of conversation. Gun free zones are proven targets of killers. After many years, a Bill should emerge. Respect 2nd Amendment!”

Amid the confusion, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shelved the gun debate for now, saying the Senate will turn next week to other measures.

Disagreement continues among legislators over the appropriate response after the Florida school shooting that left 17 dead. Republicans have largely backed away from stricter gun limits, while Democrats emboldened by Trump’s rhetoric are pushing for ambitious action, including expanded background checks and even a politically risky ban on assault weapons.

As is often the case, the president has been an unreliable negotiator.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who is a leading advocate of tougher gun laws, predicted on Twitter: “The White House is going to bob and weave on guns. Accept it.”

Still, he added: “Trump’s instinct on this issue is not wrong — if his party doesn’t get behind background checks soon, they’re cooked in 2018 and 2020.” And he argued that Trump’s “willingness to buck the gun lobby in public, rule out the NRA agenda and talk up background checks, has changed this debate nationally.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that Trump supports a limited proposal from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Murphy that would boost participation in the existing federal background check program, as well as a bill that would provide new federal grant funding to stem school violence.

Sanders said Trump had not signed on to a more sweeping background check bill that would require the review of firearm purchases online and at gun shows. The measure, from Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has found new momentum since it was first introduced after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that left 20 children dead.

Sanders sought to clarify Trump’s comments earlier in the week expressing support for tougher background checks and interest in raising the minimum age to buy certain weapons. She said he was interested in improving background checks, but “not necessarily universal background checks.” And she said that while Trump “conceptually” supports higher age requirements to purchase certain weapons, “he also knows there’s not a lot of broad support for that.”

The president also wants to use an executive order to bar the use of bump-stock devices that enable guns to fire like automatic weapons.

After Republican anxiety about Trump’s comments seeming to express openness to tougher gun controls, the executive director of the NRA, Chris Cox was positive about their Thursday night meeting. He tweeted that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don’t want gun control.”

As part of Trump’s efforts to consider various responses to gun violence, next week he plans to host members of the video game industry. He has repeatedly referenced the violence in movies and video games during conversations about guns and school safety since the Florida shooting.

Sanders said invitations started going out Thursday, and event details were being finalized. The Entertainment Software Association, a trade group that represents the video game industry, said Friday the group and its members had not been invited.

Nicole Hockley, who lost a child at Sandy Hook, has attended two White House meetings with Trump and said she remained optimistic.

“By listening to President Trump’s words I do feel he is committed to finding a way forward and he is committed to putting a plan together,” she said. “I don’t know what the content will be.”