January 26, 2012

City Policy: Make It Up As You Go Along?

In my January 22nd OpenCdA post titled Policy Question, I asked, “What is the City’s written policy regarding reading citizen letters into the minutes of City Council meetings?”  The question was predicated on the City’s selectively and arbitrarily reading some letters into the minutes of the City Council meetings while rejecting others.

Today’s Coeur d’Alene Press article titled The letters of the law by Tom Hasslinger almost answers the question.  Almost, but not quite.

In fact, today’s newspaper article reveals that the City is still trying to use the Coeur d’Alene Press as the City’s own weapon of mass deception.

In explaining why personal letters opposing a McEuen Field public advisory vote, some dated January 17th, were read into the January 17th Council meeting minutes, while a letter dated December 9th written by County Clerk Cliff Hayes and sent to the Mayor on December 9th somehow didn’t get read into the minutes of the December 20th Council meeting, today’s newspaper article reported:

The City Clerk’s Office said by time the city received Hayes’s letter, the canvassing topic wasn’t on the meeting’s agenda. Instead, the general policy is that written comments not scheduled as an agenda topic aren’t read into the record. Instead, they’re copied and delivered to each City Council member’s mailbox.

So a letter from County Clerk Hayes mailed on or about December 9th from Coeur d’Alene to the Mayor at the Coeur d’Alene City Hall didn’t make it all the way from the County Administration Building to Coeur d’Alene City Hall by December 20th?   Yet letters dated January 17th by people who said they were out of town or unable to testify personally at the January 17th Council meeting managed to get mailed and delivered on the same day?  Does anyone really believe the US Postal Service is that bad?

In fact, there is irrefutable evidence that the City had County Clerk Cliff Hayes’ letter in time to read it into the minutes of the December 20th Council meeting.  Here is a YouTube excerpt from that meeting.  Beginning at approximately 28 seconds into the excerpt, Councilman Mike Kennedy says:

County Clerk Cliff Hayes wrote us back a letter answering some of those questions, and he took exception to some of the comments that were made — particularly those by me.  So I read his letter and the story in the newspaper, and I just wanted to clarify a couple of things and report back on what I think we found and discovered…” [emphasis added]

Kennedy’s comments made at the December 20th Council meeting contradict the City Clerk’s Office explanation that the City supposedly had not received Hayes letter of December 9th in time to be added as an agenda item at the December 20th meeting.  Kennedy made it an agenda item when he offered the explanation in the YouTube presentation.

Moreover,  the Idaho Open Meeting Law, specifically Idaho Code § 67-2343(4)(c), allows that after commencement of the meeting, the agenda may be amended to accommodate unforeseen issues, provided that: (1) there is a motion made that states the good faith reason the new item was not on the original agenda, and (2) the motion to amend is adopted by the governing body.

In plain language, if the Mayor and City Council had really wanted to read County Clerk Cliff Hayes’ letter into the minutes of the December 20, 2011, meeting, they could have.  The law allowed it.  Kennedy admitted he had the letter — he referred to it in the YouTube.  Since the letter was sent to the Mayor, she had to have given it to Kennedy on or before December 20 so he could concoct his self-serving explanation.

Even if we believe the City Clerk’s Office explanation about why Hayes’ letter could not be read into the minutes of the December 20th Council meeting, there have been two Council meetings since then.  The letter could have been put on the agenda (if, in fact, that is even necessary) and read into the minutes of either of those.

From all of this, one thing should be very clear:  The City of Coeur d’Alene does have a policy about reading the public’s letters on an issue into the Council meeting minutes.  The policy is, “We’re going to make up the policy as we go along.”







  1. No to be so predictably cynical but none of this is especially surprising. Neither is the ineptness (or collusion) at the CdA Press nor at the SR. Essentially we have a lame duck Mayor and her allied Council-folk colleagues. We have newsprint that employs the power of the press as they determine. The major confounding variable is this independent digital media. I fully agree that it is exasperatingly lame and frustrating. We’ll just catalogue it under ‘Mayor-Asinine’ that by now is a 3 inch thick file and reference it before the next election. And obviously she knows this and she obviously does not care.

    Comment by Wallypog — January 26, 2012 @ 9:14 am

  2. The occasionally accurate, rarely complete Coeur d’Alene Press is living up to my nearly nonexistent expectations with this statement:

    City Clerk Susan Harris said the McEuen Field letter requests were granted because, besides being an agenda item, the topic has drawn such high public interest.

    The Coeur d’Alene City Clerk is Susan Weathers. Susan Harris was the name of one of the illegal voters in the 2009 City election. Freudian slip?

    Comment by Bill — January 26, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

  3. I’m afraid she’toast, she knows it, and won
    + again.

    Comment by Ancientemplar — January 26, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

  4. Sorry, I had a keyboard malfunction. I was going to say:

    I’m afraid she’s toast, she knows it, and she won’t run again.

    Comment by Ancientemplar — January 26, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

  5. Does the City have a policy on issuing 1099’s to Council Members for voluntary, discretionary expenses reimbursed to them by the City?

    Comment by justinian — January 26, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

  6. Great question, Justinian. Will Mike Kennedy get a 1099 for $69,660? Regarding the accuracy of the Coeur d’Alene Press and reporter, Tom Hasslinger, I wonder if he checks any facts or if anyone at The Press proof reads his work before it is printed. Susan Harris, who pled guilty to voting illegally in the 2009 Coeur d’Alene municipal election is now the appointed City Clerk. To that I say C’mon Man. When the election challenge case is heard by the Idaho Supreme Court, I hope that Jim Brannon continues to refuse to give any comments to Tom Hasslinger.

    Comment by doubleseetripleeye — January 27, 2012 @ 9:43 am

  7. Doublesee, what do you mean “Susan Harris is not the city clerk?”

    Comment by mary — January 27, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

  8. Where may I examine the city’s policy manual?

    Comment by Susie Snedaker — January 30, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

  9. Susie,

    It’s right next to the LCDC handwritten check register, kept in a ziplock bag carried in the bag on the back of the Gridster’s bicycle.

    Comment by Bill — January 30, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

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