Idaho commerce chief provides a model for candor

A draft of Wednesday's main editorial.

Perhaps Jeff Sayer’s private-sector background — including his 2003 bankruptcy filing — makes him better attuned to the risks of starting and sustaining a business.

But Sayer’s unflinching honesty and candor certainly makes him a model for others in the public sector.

On the front page of Sunday’s Statesman, in a profile written by Bill Roberts, the state Commerce Department director discussed this bankruptcy, in excruciating detail. He described the damage it wreaked on his career and his personal life — culminating in the night in 2004 when his first wife told him to leave the house. Which he did, with $50 in his pocket. “I spent that $50 on a hotel room, and I started the next day and I rebuilt from scratch.”

Sayer’s story carries newsworthiness and invites scrutiny, because of his position in Gov. Butch Otter’s Cabinet. As Commerce Department director, confirmed during the 2012 legislative session, Sayer’s job is to tout Idaho’s business climate, Idaho’s exportable goods, and Idaho’s vacation amenities.

Public officials can most quickly violate the public trust by breaking the law or misspending taxpayer money. Neither of these yardsticks apply in Sayer’s case. He landed on the wrong side of the dotcom collapse and the post-9/11 economic downturn. While he probably used bad judgment in living beyond his means, this was not a criminal act.

His story humanizes the dotcom downturn — and the subsequent and deeper Great Recession — that has afflicted so many Idahoans. It should serve as a reminder to anyone in public service: People can get caught on the wrong side of a bubble, sometimes very suddenly.

Some will question why Sayer’s bankruptcy was not aired during the confirmation process — especially since he had been open about it with Otter beforehand. However, Sayer has told a painful, personal story, at a time when he had nothing to gain from the telling. Keep that in mind the next time another public official stonewalls about some smaller matter, strictly out of craven self-interest.

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Good Story

The Sunday profile of Jeff Sayer was a good story. His recovery from bankruptcy was well told. He appears to be someone who can make a difference in the Dept. of Commerce. Recent Directors have been perhaps more bureaucratic.

Jeff's brother Doug is a spectacular success story worthy of reporting. I have met him and heard his story. I'd like to see it told too.


I don't buy it.

"that would be my ultimate goal" to pay off the credit cards.
And world peace too.
A little oversimplification.
EVERYONE who has personal problems blames someone else. Me too, it's fun to come up with new ones. But this was not a dot-com problem. This was being greedy and playing with fire when one is not a fireman.

If my salary is 3,000 a month and I borrow on my credit cards to 100,000 expecting that I will win the lottery- because I am a lucky person- and I don't win after a year, can I blame that on the recession too?

Jobs as a consultant and CFO?
Great, I want to look to for work as a neurosurgeon. Look at my track record.

"it would take him a decade to climb out" and he filed in 2003. Hey that decade is just about up.

Warbis says, "not only gets back to even but gets well ahead"... Yeah it helps when someone else (judge) wipes the slate clean. The Vandals are down 48 points. A judge comes in and wipes the scoreboard clean in the last 2 minutes. The Vandals score and win. YEAH!


I also don't buy the Statesman's intent here... why bring in the Blake Hall connection?

Call me suspicious.

Nothing detrimental about bankruptcy- it has a purpose. But no need to try to paint someone as something other than what they are. Sayer took advantage of the system and used it.

Interesting but....

Personally I would rather Governor Otter had appointed a person with a proven track record of success.

candor: yes

competence: to be determined