OpenCDA

February 24, 2015

One Last Chance for a Proportional Response …

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 12:06 pm

gambling-games1The Senate State Affairs Committee passed S 1011 last week to repeal Idaho Code § 54-2512A which was passed in 2013 to allow pari-mutuel betting on historic horse races.  It seems likely that the House State Affairs Committee will hold some sort of hearing on the bill, possibly sometime this week.

OpenCdA watched both the Senate hearing and the floor debate on S 1011, and while we heard some passing references to  concerns we have, we did not hear some specific questions we thought should have been asked and answered.  We hope the House will ask them.  For example: (more…)

February 22, 2015

“… you are commanded to provide to the Office of Attorney General…”

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 8:56 am

slippery slopeOpenCdA’s post on February 20, 2015, entitled Now Just a Minute was based on the proposal attributed to Kootenai County Clerk Jim Brannon but considered by other county elected officials including Commissioners, the Prosecutor, and the Sheriff.   As reported in Friday’s Coeur d’Alene Press, Brannon suggested hiring a county public information officer to handle both public records requests and the dissemination of public information.

OpenCdA thinks this is a bad idea.   The suggestion is a convenient way to add another filter, a gatekeeper, between public records and citizens’ access to them.  It is appalling that our elected public officials do not distinguish between public records which speak for themselves and public information which uses a spokesflack to select and deliver the County’s fluff du jour in its most favorable light.

We find this suggestion particularly galling because it is appears to be directed at shutting down legitimate inquiries primarily from one person:  Kootenai County government watchdog Frank Davis.

That elected officials in Kootenai County believe a new position for one of their hand-picked cronies needs to be created just to field legitimate inquiries from one or even a few people suggests something else to us:  The community watchdogs like Frank Davis are on the right track, and they are making some past and present elected officials (and those locally who control them)  very nervous about what the Idaho Attorney General may uncover.  (more…)

February 20, 2015

Now Just A Minute

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 12:01 pm

Whoa Nelly!!This morning’s Coeur d’Alene Press skews paper reported that Kootenai County officials are concerned about the volume of public records requests submitted by Frank Davis of Allied Bail Bonds.  In his article headlined Kootenai County officials seek to hone information delivery to  public, skewswriter David Cole included this line, “Davis, who has a history with the county involving past lawsuits, didn’t return a message left by The Press Thursday seeking comment.”

OpenCdA has filed a fair number of requests for information under the Idaho Public Records Act.  We also agree that requests should be both concise and precise in order to get the most timely response.   But quite often “concise and precise” becomes synonymous with “foundational.”  The information pried out of the locked files of reticent officials often then points toward more information that must be part of yet another request from citizens trying to get a clear and complete picture of official conduct.

And as a result of his persistence and analysis of the information he had to often pry out of Kootenai county officials, Frank Davis has laid a substantial foundation.   Or at least the Idaho Attorney General apparently thought so.

OpenCdA has learned that on November 13, 2014, Idaho Deputy Attorney General/Special Prosecuting Attorney Brenda M. Bauges, on behalf of Paul R. Panther, DAG/Chief, Criminal Law Division, and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden issued a subpoena duces tecum to Kootenai County Clerk Jim Brannon directing him to produce some specific information and documents pursuant to Idaho Code § 31-2002(3). (more…)

February 16, 2015

Stop! Get It Right

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 11:52 am

gambling-games1Our OpenCdA post on February 6 urged Idaho lawmakers to Slow Down — Get It Right in deliberating Senate Bill 1011.  SB 1011, if passed and enacted, would repeal Idaho Code § 54-2512A.  When passed and enacted in 2013, I.C. § 54-2512A allowed pari-mutuel wagering on historic horse races.

On February 9 and 11, the Idaho Legislature’s Senate State Affairs Committee heard statements from 24 persons either supporting or opposing SB 1011.  Here is a link to the Legislature’s digital media archive of the February 9 session and the February 11 session.  To make it easier to more quickly locate a specific person’s statements, here is an index of speakers tied to the time stamp on each video.

After watching the videos, we think that it is not enough to say, “Slow down and get it right.”  We think it’s time to say, “Stop!  Get it right.”   (more…)

February 6, 2015

Slow Down – Get It Right

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 8:18 am

gambling-games1On Monday, February 9  the Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee will receive testimony to consider repealing Idaho’s existing law which allowed pari-mutuel betting on historic horse races.  The existing law was passed and enacted in 2013.  It is clear from the votes by the Legislature that the 2013 law had substantial support.

So why is Idaho’s Legislature now considering repealing it barely two years later? (more…)

February 4, 2015

Oh, Please!

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 3:19 pm

bullshitIf you haven’t read the Idaho Statesman article headlined 2014 concealed weapons law costs Idaho colleges $3.7 million, please take a few minutes and read it.  The article was written by Bill Dentzer and appeared online on February 3.

If the article can be believed, when the Idaho Legislature passed Senate Bill 1254 in the 2014 session, the presidents of the five schools mentioned in the article decided it was a license for them to go on a spending spree to upgrade their campus security programs.

Let’s be very clear:  The law did not prescribe upgraded security.  What these five college presidents did, they did on their own volition (but with your money).  Why? (more…)

February 3, 2015

How Investigations Get Started

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 8:29 am

Bribery-BCA-2011Occasionally a television news story provides the station’s watchers, listeners, and online readers with a concise but fairly complete picture of how a city councilman’s official actions can prompt a federal criminal investigation.  That was the case when Hampton Roads, Virginia, television station WVEC ran its February 2, 2015, news story entitled FBI investigating Beach councilman’s vote on Cavalier project.

Not counting the attachment to the federal grand jury subpoena detailing the records which the city of Virginia Beach, Virgina, Custodian of Records is required to bring before the grand jury, the news story is only about 575 words.

WVEC’s news story suggests someone credibly alleged that Virginia Beach Councilman John Uhrin may have accepted a bribe or gratuity in return for his favorable vote on a project providing a developer millions of dollars in taxpayer incentives to renovate a hotel and allow a permit for a luxury housing community.  It appears that the bribe or gratuity alleged took the form of Uhrin’s wife being hired to market the homes in the project in return for Councilman Uhrin’s favorable vote.  (Generally, a bribe is a payoff for future official action, whereas a gratuity is a payoff for a prior official action.)

Note that at this point, the FBI is only conducting an investigation.  The function of the investigation is to gather verifiable, relevant facts which would allow the federal grand jury to decide if there is sufficient admissible evidence to warrant indicting anyone with a crime.

February 2, 2015

And the Difference Is …?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 12:12 pm

puzzled2Today’s Idaho Statesman is reporting that the Chairman of the Idaho House State Affairs Committee, Representative Thomas F.  Loertscher, ordered a private citizen to stop filming the public meeting of the State Affairs Committee.  At the same time Loertscher allowed a member of “the media” to continue filming.

So was it a public meeting or not?  If it was, and assuming the citizen was not being any more disruptive than the skews media representative allowed to continue, then was Loertscher right or wrong?

Here is what Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says in the Idaho Open Meeting Law Manual (see pages 14-15) about this type of circumstance:

Question No. 18:  May qualifications or restrictions be placed on the public’s attendance at an open meeting?

Answer:   A public agency may adopt reasonable rules and regulations to ensure the orderly conduct of a public meeting and to ensure the orderly behavior on the part of those persons attending the meeting.  In Nevens v. City of Chino, a California appellate court nullified a city council measure, which prohibited the use of any tape recorders at city council proceedings.  While acknowledging that the city council had an absolute right to adopt and enforce rules and regulations necessary to protect its public meetings, the court held that the rule prohibiting tape recorders was too arbitrary, capricious, restrictive and unreasonable.  A similar holding might be reach if a governing body prohibits the use of cameras if their presence is not in fact disruptive of the conduct of the meeting. […]

If the AG has adopted that the sole criterion for the use of cameras is the level of disruption and not the occupation or employer of the camera operator, it seems to OpenCdA that the Idaho Open Meeting Law was violated and the private citizen was wrongly deprived of his ability to non-disruptively use his camera and record for inclusion in his blog.

What are Loertscher’s criteria for differentiating between “media public” and “public public?”  It seems to us that if only the “public public” is required to get prior permission from the Chairman, the implication is that the Chairman may deny that permission to the “public public” while still allowing the “media public” to record.  That would, we think, be arbitrary, capricious, restrictive, and unreasonable and amount to differential and preferential enforcement of the Idaho Open Meeting Act.

What do you think?

January 29, 2015

And the Difference Is … What?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 7:35 am

puzzled2Yesterday’s local skewspaper article headlined Athol audit results revealed included this statement:  “[Assistant US Attorney Traci] Whelan said the federal government got involved in the case because Hansen was a public employee in a position of public trust.”

Fine.  That was certainly an acceptable reason.

But from 1985 until she retired in 2010, Sandra Kay Martinson was a public employee in a position of public trust as Kootenai County Chief Deputy Clerk and Auditing Supervisor embezzling public money in the office of former Kootenai County Clerk Dan English.  Yet when English’s replacement Cliff Hayes requested assistance from the FBI, his request was first approved and then just as quickly withdrawn.  According to the FBI’s response to our inquiry through Congressman Raul Labrador, Hayes’ request (not ours as AD Perkins incorrectly stated in his letter) was turned down by AUSA Whelan’s boss, the office of the US Attorney for the District of Idaho Wendy J. Olson.  Martinson was convicted in state court and sentenced to 90 days in the county jail, however she was released from jail before she completed that sentence.

So if the reason for the feds getting involved in Hansen’s investigation was because she was a public employee in a position of public trust, then why did the US Attorney for the District of Idaho tell the FBI to back off on Martinson?

January 28, 2015

Don’t Ask Questions!!

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 3:18 pm

RedFlagSuppose you’re an honest and diligent elected or appointed official in northern Idaho.

Or maybe you’re a planning commissioner or a city councilman in Coeur d’Alene.  Or maybe you’re a newly-elected county clerk with a competent and honest chief deputy.  Or maybe you’re a trustee in the local school district or community college.  Or maybe you’re a city councilman in Athol.

Or maybe you’re among the many honest citizens who have seen and experienced dishonesty, deception, and signs of criminal exploitation among a distressing number of elected and appointed officials so you have turned to your local or county or state government and tried to report what you have observed.

If you’re one of the people among the aforementioned groups who want responsive, honest government, you all have one thing in common:  You’ve very likely been told in one way or another to sit down, shut up, and don’t ask questions.  “It’s not your responsibility.”  Except you know it is. (more…)

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