BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A former southwestern Idaho county prosecutor who successfully fought off criminal charges, including misuse of public funds, now says he may run for governor as an independent.
Former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak filed paperwork with the Idaho secretary of state's office indicating he's raising money to challenge for the chief executive post in 2014. He also built a web site announcing an exploratory campaign.
Bujak quit as prosecutor in September 2010 after being accused of diverting money from a $734,000 contract he'd struck for the Canyon County prosecutor's office to handle misdemeanors for the city of Nampa. Bujak maintains it was a legal, private contract that saved taxpayers money, earned Canyon County lawyers raises for extra work and bolstered his personal pay.
A jury in 2012 ultimately found him not guilty of the main charge, though last month he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of contempt of court.
In an Associated Press interview Tuesday, Bujak contends he was a victim of politics and pledged to take on what he calls Idaho's "good-old-boy system."
"What happened to me, I made a decision that was very good for everyone involved, good for the taxpayers, good for my office and good for me," Bujak said. "Then, the decision because politically unpopular. And I became the scapegoat for the good old boys in Canyon County."
Bujak was elected prosecutor as a Republican, but said he would run for governor as an independent.
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, a Republican, has said he's running for a third term in 2014.
Canyon County Commissioner Kathy Alder, who was among those on the Canyon County board who accused Bujak of misusing public money, didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment on Tuesday.
During the prosecution, Alder insisted she never consented to allowing Bujak to profit personally from the contract he'd struck with Nampa.
Prosecutors dropped falsifying evidence charges in the case. After pleading guilty to contempt in July, Bujak was required to pay some court fees but faced no jail time.
Bujak, who sought bankruptcy protection during the criminal proceedings, divorced his wife and had his law license suspended, acknowledged that one of his biggest hurdles to mounting a successful campaign will be explaining his complicated case to prospective voters.
"The timing is not ideal," he said. "On the other hand, I don't think the people who have heard about what happened, have heard the whole story. Those that think they've heard the whole story really haven't heard the truth."
He expects to make a final decision between now and next March on whether he'll see the campaign through the Nov. 4, 2014 election.
Eventually, he hopes his legal tribulations — and his success in fighting them off — will turn out to be an asset among voters who also feel disenfranchised by establishment politicians.
"That may increase trust in me, because I'm not going to be the kind of guy that gets into office and bows down to the powers that be," Bujak said. "I'm not a wimp. I'm used to fighting tough battles."