BOISE, Idaho — Idaho State Police say they didn't conduct an investigation following revelations that private prison company Corrections Corporation of America understaffed a prison and gave the state falsified documents to hide vacancies.
State officials had promised that there would be a criminal probe, but Capt. William Gardiner told The Associated Press on Wednesday that "no detective was assigned. There was no investigation."
Neither the police nor the Idaho Department of Correction asked to look at CCA's timesheet software — software that has auditing capabilities designed to catch fraud — and the police apparently didn't interview any CCA employees. A public records request sent to Idaho State Police by the AP for investigation records was denied, with the police saying no records exist.
Instead, the forensic auditing firm KPMG was hired, and that firm looked at print-outs of time sheet records provided by CCA. KPMG determined that CCA left more than 26,000 hours of mandatory guard posts unstaffed or inadequately covered in 2012, according to the report, which The Associated Press obtained Wednesday. The auditing firm also said that number was likely lower than the actual amount of understaffing because some data was impossible to verify, and left out of the equation. KPMG recommended that the state expand its investigation of CCA's staffing to additional years.
The Idaho Department of Correction and the Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA announced Tuesday that CCA would pay the state $1 million for understaffing.
The Department of Correction is currently in the process of taking over the 2,080-bed Idaho Correctional Center. Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, long a supporter of private prisons, announced the takeover earlier this year.
The move to end CCA's contract, which expires June 30, came months after a report by The AP raised questions about how CCA was staffing the prison. After the AP story was published, the Department of Correction asked the State Police to investigate the prison and CCA for possible contract fraud or other problems.
In a statement, the State Police said it appeared that CCA's actions were "a civil breach of contract" and not a crime.
"The Idaho State Police stand ready to investigate any activity of CCA and its employees should it violate Idaho's state criminal statutes, as appropriate," the statement said.
CCA acknowledged last year that its employees falsified staffing records given to the state to hide vacancies, but said only 4,800 hours of mandatory posts were left unstaffed. At the time, the company offered to give the state $100,000 to make up for the understaffing. CCA spokesman Steven Owen promised that Idaho taxpayers would be "made whole" for all unverified hours at the prison.
The vacant posts and phony records violated not only CCA's $29-million annual contract to run the Idaho Correctional Center, but also a federal settlement agreement reached with inmates who sued claiming the understaffing led to rampant violence.
Mark Warbis, a spokesman for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, said that the State Police have been "engaged with DOC (the Department of Correction) throughout the process. DOC was in regular communication with ISP and vice versa."
"I believe that the people who were engaged in this process made their best professional assessment of the situation," Warbis said. "I'm not going to second-guess ISP's process."
Idaho State Police Col. Ralph Powell was scheduled to speak at the Board of Correction meeting late Wednesday morning. But the State Police decided not to attend, Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said, and Powell was apparently out of town and not scheduled to return until Wednesday night.
"The Colonel participated in every meeting that we had," Reinke said. "Because of their continuous support and involvement, we handled that as an ISP investigation."
Reinke has said several times over the past year that the police investigation was underway. He said he didn't know exactly when he found out that ISP was relying on the KPMG audit and not creating investigative records of its own.
"We were well into the process," Reinke said. "There's been an ISP representative at all these meetings. I never really looked at it as the standpoint of is there a hard-copy investigation. As far as not knowing that there was nothing hard-copy, it would have been in the last month or two."
CCA spokesman Owen said the ISP's findings were "another important step that allows us all to move forward."
"This story is coming to a conclusion," Owen said in an email. "We've worked openly with the state toward resolution and have reached one that they agree makes taxpayers whole."