Opinion » Bill Cope

Mother Teresa?

The Luna who just won't go away

by

People who have a job to do should do it themselves and not try to get someone else to do it for them, isn't that right? So were I to implore any Idaho reporters reading this column to please share any information they may have on Teresa Luna, who she knows, and (possibly) what she knows about them, all so I could write a column about the wonders of her still having a job with the state?... that wouldn't be proper, would it?

Nah, probably not.

But damn! I don't know what else to do. I am just itching to know how she does it. I'd love to call up a state leader—Butch Otter, perhaps, or Brad Richy, who heads the agency in which Teresa Luna snagged her newest state paycheck—and ask something along the lines of... "Say, Butch (or Brad), could you please tell me how an individual can screw up as thoroughly as Teresa Luna did in one extremely-well-paid state position, even going behind the back of our Legislature to renew a contract that was so rotten, it has been rejected by the Idaho Supreme Court and is now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, and then get hired for another state position, and it happens right after it's discovered that she hadn't quite left the agency she screwed up so badly because she'd been kept on as some kind consultant or something for an extra month after her embarrassed resignation, all in a capacity that, it seems, even our state legislators didn't know about? How does that happen, Butch (or Brad)? Is it at all possible she has a crude clay doll with a lock of your hair glued on top, perhaps, along with a sharp pin or two that she keeps in a secret place, and you fear that if you cut her loose and send her out into non-governmental employment territory, she might take it personally?"

See what I mean? Pretty clumsy, huh? And you can guess how far I'd get. Which is the only reason I would ask a real news reporter to do the work I should be doing myself.

On the other hand, as near as I can tell, I'm the only person in Idaho with access to a newspaper column who is curious about this matter. And it's not like I want to cast doubt on every state employee who might have pulled a boner, then got a second chance.

But... and maybe I'm wrong here... but "pulling a boner" doesn't come close to describing what Teresa Luna pulled. Actually, I've had my suspicions from the first time I heard she had a pretty significant management position with the state, because well... to be blunt... she isn't exactly qualified by virtue of her education or background as management material, is she? So it has occurred to me more than once that maybe the fact her brother was state superintendent of public instruction had something to do with it.

And let's face it ... Tom Luna, himself, was about as qualified for that job as only an uneducated, non-educator could be. So whatever it is that gets Teresa the enthusiastic backing of powerful Idaho influences must run in the family. And I don't necessarily mean that in a nepotism way.

It's probable we'll never know how much Tom Luna's escapades—him with his failed "Students Come First" follies and botched charter schools and cronied-up contracts with iffy online providers—have cost the taxpayers of Idaho. It's possible that the damage he wrought would be measured more in wasted time and wasted opportunities than in wasted money—though I doubt it.

But Teresa, now. We can pretty much pin her failures down to within a few million dollars. Seriously, that Idaho Education Network contract that the questionable Mike Gwartney first, then Ms. Luna, tried to bully into being was a $60 million flop. And that doesn't even count the hundreds of thousands of dollars the state is spending to defend against lawsuits that are coming from the deal's sore losers.

And that extra month she spent "consulting" with the Department of Administration—after she had resigned in what any non-insider would have to call "disgrace"—that would come out to another $8,000, or so, seeing as how her annual take-home as director of that office was close to $100,000. Now, with her new title "emergency planner," she'll be getting almost $60,000 from the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security—which... pardon my snark... sounds to me a little like the kind of office opened to keep inept brothers-in-law from having to take a job washing cars.

But I guess the thing that has me scratching my head in the worst way isn't the money aspect of it all—which, lest you forgot, comes out of pockets in a state where the average yearly earnings are slightly more than $43,000—but exactly what is it about Teresa Luna that seems so indispensable to whomever does the hiring up there in Otter Central? The governor is quoted as remarking, “I admire Teresa’s tenacity and commitment to doing the right thing." But seems to me the doing the right thing part of that statement went seriously kerflooey the minute she extended that crap broadband contract another six years without telling the Legislature.

Somewhere in Idaho, there's gotta be a journalist nosy enough to look beyond those glowing appraisals of Teresa's talents, then explain to the rest of us what's going on. And i'm pretty sure it's not me. I can't stop thinking about a clay doll with some of my hair glued on top, tucked away in a drawer somewhere.