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Boise City Council unanimously approves $500,000 contract for BPD investigation

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All six Boise City Council Members voted to spend half a million dollars on a contract with an outside firm to investigate racism in the Boise Police Department in the wake of revelations that a Boise police captain was affiliated with a white supremacist website.

At the regular city council meeting on Tuesday, council members unanimously approved a contract with Washington D.C. attorney Michael R. Bromwich to lead the probe into the department’s policing practices and how now-retired Captain Matt Bryngelson’s beliefs could have impacted his work with the public. Bromwich has years of experience with oversight of agencies from his time as an Inspector General with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Over the course of his career, Bromwich has conducted investigations and oversight of a range of organizations and scandals, including heading up the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement in the wake of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, helped prosecute one of the architects of the Iran-Contra Affair and conducted an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department’s infamous Gun Trace Task Force. He’s also investigated the FBI during his time with the Department of Justice and later did a stint as an independent investigator for the Houston Police Department, where his work revealed widespread fraud in the city’s crime lab.

The contract is set to expire in December 2023, but McLean said at the meeting this date is only a formality due to government contracts needing an end date and it does not mean the process will take that long.

Council talks high contract price

Everyone on the council voted for the contract, but the $500,000 price tag did not go unnoticed.

City Council Member Patrick Bageant offered a brief comment saying he looked forward to the findings of the investigation and “serious professionals charge serious professional rates.” City Council Member Luci Willits, who frequently comments on the need to cut government spending, said she would be supporting the contract as well, but she said the way the contract was awarded to a single firm instead of through a public bid process, which she says could have brought the price down or compared to other options, gave her some “sticker shock.”

“Because of the need for the investigation, I will support this motion, but I want to be clear that I am concerned about the cost,” she said. “I think it does have sticker shock and because we didn’t have a comparison publicly it’s difficult to know whether the price is fair or not.”

City Council President Elaine Clegg said although it is up to the mayor’s office to decide contractors in a situation like this and city council’s job is to merely determine if it’s a legally proper contract, she supports the selection of Bromwich to conduct the oversight.

City Council Member Lisa Sanchez also voted for the contract, noting that she was glad to see the city spend money dedicated to rooting out white supremacy in Boise instead of seeking the cheapest possible option.

“Oftentimes when it comes to anything having to do with diversity, equity and inclusion or anything like that, it’s been my experience that people try to use a coupon,” she said. “It’s not really given a lot of credence. It’s seen as fluff, but what brought this to light in terms of our need for taking this very, very seriously warrants that we put a dollar amount to it. Sometimes it needs to hurt in the pocketbook for people to finally take it seriously.”

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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