Disgraced Idaho Senator Broke Labor Laws, Faces Fine

December 4, 2008

A former Idaho senator who quit the Idaho Legislature in 2005 as lawmakers pushed for him to be expelled over ethics transgressions now has been ordered to pay $6,575 for breaking state employment laws.

John David “Jack” Noble and his wife, Tracey Lee Noble, lost a civil judgment in the case brought by the Idaho Industrial Commission. They failed to provide workers’ compensation insurance for employees at their now-defunct dairy in Kuna.

The Nobles appear to have left Idaho for Texas, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records.

Fourth District Court Magistrate Judge Patricia Young ruled Oct. 30 that the Nobles “failed to obtain and maintain a policy of workers’ compensation insurance … to protect their Idaho workers” between November 2005 and June 2006.

The judge levied a $5,825 fine and ordered the couple to pay the state’s $750 legal bill.

According to the Industrial Commission, employers like the Nobles who don’t provide workers’ compensation insurance can be held personally for all benefits, including medical bills and loss of pay. It’s unclear if any workers were hurt while working at the Nobles’ dairy.

“If you get hurt at work, workers’ compensation pays for your medical bills, it pays for a percentage of your wages during the time you are physically incapacitated if you’re not able to do your job,” said Christi Simon, the commission’s employer compliance supervisor. Without such a policy, “if an employer has no assets or the company is in bankruptcy, the employee rarely is able to collect benefits they are entitled to by law,” Simon said.

In late 2005, the Nobles filed for bankruptcy, indicating on court documents that they had $350,000 in assets and $2.3 million in liabilities.

Their bankruptcy case remains unresolved, amid efforts to sell their home as part of a plan to repay debts, according to documents filed in September.

Efforts by The Associated Press to contact the Nobles weren’t successful. Tracey Lee Noble didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.

Family members in Kuna also didn’t return phone calls.

The state hasn’t been able to find the Nobles — the Ada County sheriff’s office failed to locate them to deliver a summons earlier this year — but an AP search of Bankruptcy Court records indicates they have left Idaho and now live in Pecos, Texas.

In February 2005, then-state Sen. Jack Noble, a Republican, tried unsuccessfully to introduce legislation in the Senate State Affairs Committee to change the way Idaho calculates the distance required between schools and liquor stores. Had it passed, the modification could have benefited his convenience store in rural Melba in southwestern Idaho.

The Senate Ethics Committee voted to censure Noble for lying under oath and trying to pass a bill that would have benefited his family business without declaring a conflict of interest.

On March 7, 2005, a defiant Noble delivered a terse letter of resignation to state Senate leadership as momentum was building behind a possible expulsion vote.

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