OpenCDA

December 12, 2011

Measuring Public Officials’ Performance

Sometimes elected officials’ performance of a seemingly small but statutorily required function can reveal much about their character,  competence, and diligence.

With that in mind, consider this.  Under the heading of “I.  OTHER BUSINESS,” the agenda for the regularly-scheduled December 6, 2011, meeting of the Coeur d’Alene City Council listed “1.  Acceptance of Canvassed Election Results.”  Here is a link to the YouTube video of that segment of the meeting.  Please pay close attention to the words and inflection, facial expressions, and gestures of the Coeur d’Alene Mayor and Council members.

Recalling comments the Coeur d’Alene Mayor and Council members made in the video concerning the conduct of the City’s election by Kootenai County Clerk Cliff Hayes and his staff, now please read Kootenai County Clerk Cliff Hayes’ letter of December 9 sent in response to the Mayor and Council’s conduct at their December 6 meeting .  

The Mayor and Council were discussing the November 17 canvass of the City election held on November 8, 2011.  Under revisions to Idaho’s election laws signed into law by the Governor on May 18, 2009, and which went into effect on January 1, 2011, all city elections in Idaho are administered by the county clerks, and the subsequent canvass are now conducted by the Board of County Commissioners.  Judging from their responses on Tuesday night, Coeur d’Alene’s Mayor, the Council, and the City Attorney do not understand that.

The Mayor and several Council members said they didn’t know what their duties are under the new law regarding the canvass.  So they did the seemingly logical thing — they summoned the City Attorney Mike Gridley to the podium to give them the answer.

Here is how a diligent and prepared city attorney might have answered them:  “Idaho Code, Section 50-412 says all you have to do is accept the tabulation of votes prepared by the election judges and clerks and the canvass.  Then you have to enter the results of both in the minutes of city council proceedings and proclaim them as final.  That’s all you have to do.  You are not ‘certifying’ the election, only acknowledging you have received the results of the canvass from the Board of Canvass.”

Instead, City Attorney Gridley began a rambling non-answer answer by saying, “I would like to hold myself out as an expert on Idaho election law, but that would be fraud, I think, so… um, I don’t know.”  Why not?  Why didn’t he just read the pertinent section of Idaho Code and explain it?  Why shortly after the Governor signed the new law in 2009 didn’t our City Attorney (who earns $125,000 per year) sit down with the City Clerk and the County Clerk and, if necessary, with the Secretary of State and figure it out?  Why almost a year after the new law took effect does the Coeur d’Alene City Attorney not know what the City’s legal and administrative duties and responsibilities are under that law?  Knowing that is his job!

For that matter, why didn’t Bloem and Kennedy know?  Both Bloem and Kennedy are muckety-mucks in the Association of Idaho Cities, a lobbying organization.   The AIC works with the Secretary of State and published the 2011 Election Manual For City Clerks.  Bloem and Kennedy, Gridley and City Clerk Weathers didn’t even have to read past the Introduction in the manual their own lobbyists put out.  The Introduction includes this:

The question on the minds of most city clerks is: “What is my role now in the election process?”
The city clerk’s primary responsibilities will be overseeing candidate filing, forwarding
information about candidates and ballot measures to the county clerk’s office, and assisting and
answering questions from county election staff. A more detailed list of the city clerk’s
responsibilities is provided below.
[seven bullet points redacted for brevity]
· Ensuring the official vote tally (broken down by precinct, for cities with multiple
precincts) is included in the minutes of the council meeting following the canvass of the
ballots by the county commissioners.

Kennedy was outraged that the Council had (according to him) received only two pieces of paper from the County Clerk’s office.  Councilman Mike Kennedy misstated the facts, and in my opinion did so intentionally.  City Clerk Susan Weathers was at the November 17, 2011, official canvass where County Clerk Cliff Hayes passed out detailed reports of the election to the audience and County Commissioners.  A few days prior to every Council meeting, the Council members are provided with a packet of information to help them prepare for the meeting.  In the packet for the December 6, 2011, Council meeting were six pages (pages 69/88 through pages 74/88) of documents provided by the County Clerk to City Clerk Susan Weathers.  Kennedy openly displayed two of those six pages in the Council meeting, yet he would have the audience believe those were the only pages the City received.

Councilman Hassell observed that in past elections (when the city’s mayor and council were the board of canvassers) they had always been able to examine the poll books.   Then why didn’t they do it on November 9, 2009, when they participated in the canvass of the November 3, 2009, City election?  That was the closest election in years.  At the time of their canvass, there were only five votes separating the contestants in the election for Council Seat 2.  If ever there was an election canvass at which our Mayor and City Council needed to pay attention, it was that one.  Yet in the words of the City’s own trial attorney in the subsequent election contest lawsuit, the Mayor and Council just “rubber stamped” the results with no questions asked.  Those results of the 2009 election were on one page from the former Kootenai County Clerk.  I have spoken personally with two witnesses in the audience at the 2009 canvass, and they both independently recall only seeing the one-page document examined by the Council members.  The witnesses recalled no examination of poll books.  Since the election canvass is a public meeting and all deliberations toward the action must occur in a public meeting, if a quorum of the Council examined the poll books outside the public meeting, they likely violated Idaho’s Open Meeting Law.

The most offensive, unprofessional, and misinformed comments came from Councilman Mike Kennedy.  He was blathering about how the County Clerk should have had the “presence of mind to be here when we do this, because we’re the biggest city in the county .”  Kennedy also said, “I think it’s dereliction of duty for the County Clerk to not be here (inaudible) and to answer any questions we might have.”

The Kootenai County Clerk is not a mind reader; no one from the City had invited him to attend or to send a representative to the December 6, 2011, Coeur d’Alene City Council meeting.  And of course the Coeur d’Alene Mayor and City Council could have attended the official election canvass on November 17, 2011.  As noted earlier, Coeur d’Alene City Clerk Susan Weathers was there.  Like the other audience members, she had every opportunity to ask questions but did not.

As for Kennedy’s absurd allegation that the County Clerk was derelict in performing a duty, there first had to be a duty the County Clerk was required to perform.  Neither state statutes nor county ordinances even mention the County Clerk being required to attend a city council meeting when it is the council which has the duty to comply with I.C. § 50-412.  If Kennedy needs an example of dereliction of duty, he need only look at the failure of former Kootenai County Clerk Dan English to keep absentee ballots records as required by Idaho code.  Keeping that statutorily-required record was required by law, so failing to keep it was dereliction of duty (also known as nonfeasance or malconduct).

Under the old election laws, Coeur d’Alene City Clerk Susan Weathers was the City’s chief elections officer.  Under the new law, the county clerks are now the chief elections officer for all the incorporated cities in their county.  However, the city clerks still have some elections-related duties to perform.  Again, see the Introduction to the 2011 Election Manual For City Clerks.  So since there was an election-related item on the December 6, 2011, Coeur d’Alene City Council agenda, why didn’t the Mayor and Council direct their questions to City Clerk Susan Weathers?  They couldn’t; she wasn’t at the meeting.  She was attending the open meeting law-public records law seminar sponsored by Idahoans for Openness in Government (IDOG) in downtown Coeur d’Alene.

Toward the end of the discussion about the 2011 election canvass, Kennedy said he and Bloem and AIC would be working with the Secretary of State to make recommendations regarding changes to Idaho’s elections laws.  Again, please review the video excerpt from the December 6, 2011, Coeur d’Alene City Council meeting.  Also, please review Kootenai County Clerk Cliff Hayes’ letter in response to what was said at that meeting.  Who would be better prepared and more knowledgeable to discuss possible election law legislation with Idaho’s legislators?

18 Comments

  1. Oh good grief! Mikey must love the sound of his own voice as he repeated ad nauseum the same commentary. Covering his backside if you will. Bloem the smirker simply looked ridiculous. Has anybody checked Goodlander for a pulse lately? This odious group got hammered and still they continue with the same old arrogant hubris…..gag!!!

    Comment by rochereau — December 12, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

  2. Hmmmm. Sounds as if I will have to forego the usual six-pack and get a thirty-pack in order to make it through this show.

    Comment by Joe Six-Pack — December 12, 2011 @ 4:50 pm

  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8jphxpi1ro

    Comment by justinian — December 12, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

  4. Who in the heck believes that crazy council meeting? They act it out like it was a bad script. First Hassel says something like, We used to look at the poll books but now I guess we don’t get to…then, right on que, Kennedy looks out into the audience and says something like, Is anyone from the County Clerk’s office here?…No…well gosh, they should be…that’s dereliction of duty!”
    Their trite and irritating banter goes on and on. The City Attorney knows nothing and says he knows nothing. We pay him $125,000 per year to know these things!

    It was obvious to me that this was theater at its worst. Kennedy knew Cliff Hayes was not going to be at the meeting. The new law does not require it and the city council never invited Cliff or his staff!

    Then Kennedy holds up two pieces of paper and says that was all the County sent to them….a total lie. There were 6 pages of County documents in every city councilperson’s info packet for the meeting. City Clerk Susan Weathers had even more info from the County. “Bless his heart”, as they say in the south, Kennedy is a piece of work.

    The truth of the matter is that the 24 improper voters that happened this year were immediately known by the Elections Dept because they kept much tighter records. Cliff reported the problem himself. It was openly in the Canvass of the Votes report.

    In 2009 there were more than 57 people who got ballots where the type of ballot (city, county or Fernan) was not even recorded, so all of the ballots could have been improper, we don’t know. They weren’t discovered by Dan English or his staff because they didn’t care to look or check. They were not reported in the Canvass of the Votes. No errors or problems were reported, even though there were many.

    The only way the problems of the 2009 election were even discovered was because of the Election Challenge and the volunteer hours of all kinds of people scouring records and investigating addresses.

    Kudos to all who helped uncover the problems of that election because your efforts have led to a better system this time, thanks to Cliff and his staff.

    Comment by mary — December 12, 2011 @ 7:06 pm

  5. Kennedy can’t be trusted to speak the truth! And the rest of the Council Members, Mayor and City staff remained silent while he made a fool of himself.

    Comment by LTR — December 12, 2011 @ 7:23 pm

  6. Looks like somebody pootered on their playground and the glee club is grousely stamping their collective feets. Can you imagine the upcoming council meetings when contrary opinions and contrary votes will exist?

    Comment by Wallypog — December 13, 2011 @ 8:08 am

  7. Wallypog..now THAT will be theater, Tuesday evening cartoons.

    Comment by Ancientemplar — December 13, 2011 @ 9:06 am

  8. Time for popcorn!

    Comment by Pariah — December 13, 2011 @ 11:18 am

  9. Poor Mr. Kennedy came across in the CDA Press as a whiny and pathetic loser yesterday. Cliff Hayes as a pro.

    Comment by justinian — December 14, 2011 @ 6:41 am

  10. Justinian,

    Mary’s comment added to that post summed it up well.

    It is very significant that the material County Clerk Cliff Hayes and his staff prepared was delivered to the Board of Canvassers at the canvass. The completeness of the material allowed them and the audience to ask questions about the conduct of the election. Incidentally, there was more material passed out concerning absentee ballots and voided ballots than the City Clerk included in the CdA City Council’s packet for the December 6 meeting. If the Board of Canvassers had any issues with the conduct of the election, that was its opportunity to raise them. The canvass is important, because any recount or contest must be initiated within 20 days of the canvass.

    As for the 24 illegally cast ballots, the documents provided by the County Clerk stated:

    Poll workers did not call the Elections office as they had been instructed to do in training if a voter who
    was not in the poll book wanted a ballot.
    Poll workers at Precinct 60/61 will be interviewed to gather
    more information about the problem, and additional poll worker training emphasis will be placed on
    preventing this error in the future.

    I’m sure the poll worker interviews will provide the information to guide the County Clerk on the appropriate remedial actions.

    Comment by Bill — December 14, 2011 @ 7:04 am

  11. The CDA City Council elections was not the only one in town. There were other City elections too. Was there this type of criticism from the other cities? Probably not! Sour grapes to the CDA City Council for their feeble attempt to cast a shadow over a great election. Voter confidence is being restored to our County and that is important to the voters!

    Comment by curious1 — December 14, 2011 @ 7:23 am

  12. curious1,

    Your last sentence, “Voter confidence is being restored to our County and that is important to the voters!” hit the bulls-eye. Restoring voter confidence in the integrity of our elections will encourage more people to register legally and vote legally. That restoration must start locally in municipal and county elections, then percolate upward to the national level. Honest local elections are more likely to result in honest national elections.

    Comment by Bill — December 14, 2011 @ 7:40 am

  13. Interestingly or pathetically the election canvas threads here on ‘OpenCdA’ are being referenced and profoundly criticized by Olivera on his ghostly HBO blog. The crux of their position is that English had fewer mistakes. Of course they neglect to mention that English did not look for any mistakes and did his best to keep others from looking for mistakes. They also have some suggestions for OpenCda and I have a suggestion for HBO: Change its name to ‘Sludge’.

    Comment by Wallypog — December 14, 2011 @ 8:26 am

  14. Wallypog,

    Really? Fewer than 877 plus those acknowledged in court?

    Comment by Bill — December 14, 2011 @ 8:33 am

  15. “ghostly HBO blog” wonderful description. Reading anything that man says or writes is a waste of time. Pathetic has been who was quite properly taken off the mast head and demoted. He so wants to be a part of what he considers the insiders and they laugh at him while using him as propaganda.

    Comment by rochereau — December 14, 2011 @ 9:07 am

  16. Ghostly indeed. Now they are arguing for the banishment of all religion from the public square.

    Comment by Pariah — December 14, 2011 @ 9:38 am

  17. Clearly pariah I don’t read HBO. But I always wonder just why it is necessary for the minority few to tell the rest of us what and how we should believe. Religion is a huge part of this nation…all religions. And this is the season of religious observance for both Christians and Jews. If one doesn’t want to see religion in the public square, simply look the other way!

    Comment by rochereau — December 14, 2011 @ 9:50 am

  18. The militant left HATES religion. They cannot accept that their worldview is not correct. Of course both Cuba and Russia have both abandoned official atheism. Why? After decades of trying, it failed. The Russian Navy is now installing chapels on their naval vessels. At HBO and in the DNC they are advocating the FAILED systems of the past.

    Comment by Pariah — December 14, 2011 @ 9:53 am

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