Governor defends spending millions on outside lawyers

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- Governor Butch Otter defends spending millions of tax dollars on private attorneys, rather than hiring more internal lawyers to handle Idaho's legal work.

The Office of the State Controller released documents to KBOI that list more than $18 million in expenses spent on private lawyers in the past three years. All of them were hired to do work the Office of the Attorney General doesn't have the staff for.

But, on average, private lawyers cost a lot more than state attorneys. According to the Associated Press, legal aid from the Attorney General's office costs an average of $54 an hour, while Idaho sometimes pays more than $400 an hour for an attorney at a private firm.

Taxpayer Ben Upchurch gives his analogy.

"Instead of investing in other lawyers, they're kind of renting more expensive lawyers," Upchurch said. "Kind of like taking a taxi cab every day, all day, instead of just going out and buying a car."

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has asked the state to add more attorneys to his staff because he says his office can handle Idaho's legal matters at a lower cost per hour.

But Governor Otter says the Attorney General's office doesn't need extra lawyers all of the time. His office sent KBOI a statement which reads:

"...When we don't need (these attorneys) we don't have to pay them nor do we have to pay for their benefits."