OpenCdA encourages readers to carefully and thoughtfully consider Wednesday’s editorial in the Los Angeles Times. The editorial was headlined The lesson of Bell: A watchful citizenry is still essential.
While OpenCdA completely agrees with the need for a watchful citizenry, that simply isn’t enough. Had it not been for the diligent news coverage by the Los Angeles Times, the magnitude and scope of the crimes might never have been known. Press curiosity encourages honesty and openness. Diligent, persistent, and penetrating press reporting discourages corruption.
We in Coeur d’Alene have often heard some of our own city councilmen, most often outgoing Councilman Deanna Goodlander, tell us that they don’t need to pay attention to the details and neither do we. “Trust the City Staff.”
In Bell, the trusted City Staff was City Administrator Robert Rizzo and Assistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia. Another former member of the trusted Bell City Staff, the City Clerk, testified that she falsified public records when directed. And five of the six City Councilmen who trusted them so blindly have now been convicted of some crimes and may face retrial on other charges as well.
For us in Coeur d’Alene, The Lesson of Bell ought to be to unquestioningly trust no one at City Hall. We private citizens need to pay attention. Paying attention won’t be easy because our local and regional news media appear to be intentionally not paying attention. But we have to try.
A former Kootenai County Finance Director has been convicted by a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury on 11 of 13 counts relating to public corruption .
On Monday, December 9, 2013, Angela Spaccia was convicted on charges including misappropriation of public funds, conflict of interest, and secretion [sic] of the official record. Spaccia committed the offenses while employed from July 2003 until October 2010 as the assistant to the Chief Administrative Officer of Bell, California.
During Spaccia’s trial it was learned that she had served from 1994 until June 1998 as the Associate Director of the YWCA in Coeur d’Alene. From June 15, 1998, until June 16, 2000, she served as the Finance Director for Kootenai County, Idaho, in the Auditor’s Office under then Kootenai County Clerk Dan English. At the time she was known by her married name, Angela Sheffield. In 2000 she divorced her husband, Thomas Allen Sheffield, and returned to southern California with her son. (more…)
Steve Anthony is the Recreation Services Director for the City of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and he is also the City’s liaison to the City’s Arts Commission. Jennifer (Riggs) Drake is the Chairman of the Arts Commission Selection Committee which chose a sculpture titled Allium Spring Chorus by Somerville, Massachusetts, artist David Tonnesen for the McEuen Park Third Street entrance.
The final approval for the $110,000 purchase was made by the Coeur d’Alene City Council at its December 3, 2013, meeting on a tie-breaking vote by outgoing Mayor Sandi Bloem. While the local skewspaper, the Coeur d’Alene Press, reported some of Anthony and Drake’s comments to Council , its article omitted others which some people believed were arrogant and disparaged local artists. Here are audio recordings of the disquieting comments:
Anthony’s comment (Duration: 12 seconds)
Drake’s comment (preceded by Councilman Kennedy’s predicate question) (Duration: 61 seconds)
Readers may want to view the online video of the December 3rd Council meeting to get the entire context of their remarks. The discussion of the piece of art began at 24:57 and ended at 49:38 on the video time stamp.
ADDENDUM on 12-09-2013 at 4:10 PM: Apparently Boise is proud of its local artists.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has appointed corruption-fighting Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman to be the County’s inspector general. Huntsman’s marching orders give him independent authority to investigate numerous allegations leveled against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Huntsman has a strong reputation for handling public corruption and police misconduct cases as a supervisor in the LA County DA’s Public Integrity Division.
OpenCdA can imagine what Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh’s response would be to that: “What? You expect Idaho’s county prosecuting attorneys to aggressively prosecute corrupt public officials and dirty cops? You’re kidding, right? We need them to get re-elected or elevated to the bench!”
The Washington Post is reporting Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and some better-known national public officials have served on the board of directors of a nonprofit organization which sought to understate rather than fully expose and prosecute high-dollar thefts from the organization. The organization is the American Legacy Foundation.
The WaPo’s articles are headlined Inside the hidden world of thefts, scams, and phantom purchases at the nation’s nonprofits, and Non-profit groups often seek restitution, not prosecution, when money goes missing.
This is the photo taken of Pier’ Angela Spaccia by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department when she was booked into the Los Angeles County jail in 2010. Spaccia is currently on trial in California Superior Court, charged with a total of 13 counts including conflict of interest, misappropriation of public funds, secretation of public records, receiving unauthorized compensation and conspiracy.
As Los Angeles Times reporters Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives have reported, Spaccia has a fairly recent connection to both Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls. She was known as Angela Sheffield when she was Kootenai County’s Finance Director.
In her second comment appended to yesterday’s OpenCdA post titled Bell Corruption: Tightening the Coeur d’Alene Connection, Stebbijo remarked, “… however, there isn’t much, connecting her to this area other than a sealed case out of Post Falls, Idaho.”
Here is what we’ve been able to find from a cursory inspection of public records. (more…)
Last Saturday’s OpenCdA post titled Coeur d’Alene’s Connection to the Corruption in Bell asked why Angela Spaccia was interested in buying some very expensive property in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. More specifically, we wanted to know what Spaccia’s connection was and is to Coeur d’Alene.
Today, we have a much better idea. (more…)
There was a tantalizing mention of “Idaho” twice in the Los Angeles Times story dated November 14, 2013, headlined Ex-Bell leader Spaccia faces cross-examination in corruption trial.
These two sentences appeared near the end of the article:
“Spaccia also testified that in 2010, she borrowed $200,000 from Rizzo’s mother-in-law to buy a house in Idaho.”
“Adams testified that Spaccia asked him for a $350,000 loan for property in Idaho in February 2010.”
OpenCdA was curious about where Angela Spaccia had been trying to buy property in Idaho, so we contacted LA Times reporter Jeff Gottlieb and asked. His answer: “In your fair city, Coeur d’Alene.”
Mr. Gottlieb’s answer raises more questions. Why did Angela Spaccia happen to choose Coeur d’Alene? Does she have friends, family, or business associates here? During her tenure as Bell’s Assistant City Administrator, had she been in contact with someone in Coeur d’Alene who suggested this would be a good place to “get lost” because our local and regional news media and law enforcement are not professionally too inquisitive?
Maybe some day we’ll get an answer to these questions.
ADDENDUM: Here’s a link to some selected news stories the Los Angeles Times has published concerning the Bell corruption.
The corruption scandal involving the city of Bell, California, Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo and his chief deputy, Angela Spaccia, gets dirtier and dirtier.
During Friday’s testimony, Deputy District Attorney Sean Hassett forced Spaccia to acknowledge that a 2006 resolution approved by the City Council had been illegally altered (switched) so the wording they signed was different from the wording of the resolution in their council packets. What was in the Council packet and what the Council believed they were signing was, in fact, different from what they actually did sign. Someone on the City staff, someone obviously trusted by the Council members, had altered the documents, public records.
The result was that the Council gave Rizzo more power and authority than had been intended. It allowed Rizzo to approve lucrative contracts with City employees without Council approval.
Fortunately, nothing like that could ever happen in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Our Council diligently reads every document in its packet. They compare word-for-word what their packet contains with what our City Clerk puts in front of them. Our City Finance Director and City Attorney do the same. Everyone’s paying attention, so we’re safe, right? Two words: Sheryl Carroll.
According to our local skewspaper, the Coeur d’Alene Press, first-term State Representative Lucas Malek is considering becoming a candidate to be Idaho’s Secretary of State.
Predictably, the Press article had a mini-bio which included this statement: “His education and work experience are a good fit to lead the office, he said. A graduate of the University of Idaho’s law school, he’s a former Kootenai County deputy prosecutor and served Jim Risch as North Idaho regional director when Risch was governor.”
Wow! He’s a former Kootenai County deputy prosecutor! Hard-hitting crime fighter? Oh, not so fast, Lukey-Dukey. According to the Idaho State Bar Association, Malek was admitted to the Bar on April 28, 2011. And according to Malek’s own LinkedIn information, he served as a deputy prosecuting attorney from May 2011 until April 2012. But that same LinkedIn information also notes that Malek declared his candidacy for the Idaho State Legislature in December 2011, so we wonder how much time he really spent as a functioning deputy prosecuting attorney. By his own admission, it was no more than one year.
It appears to OpenCdA that Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh put Malek on his office’s county payroll more to bolster Malek’s political resumé than to serve as a functioning deputy prosecutor for the people of Kootenai County. Malek had been endorsed by outgoing Representative Marge Chadderdon, and it was her vacant seat Malek sought.
Thus far, Malek’s resumé appears to reveal more self-serving ticket-punching than a legitimate long-term commitment to public service.