April 27, 2015

April 25 Awards

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 8:17 am

awardsApril 25, 2015, should possibly be designated as “Idaho Journalism Awards Day.”  There were two equally meaningful and important sets of awards given out then.

The first was the Idaho Press Club Best of 2014 Annual Awards, and the second was the Max Dalton Open Government Award.

Probably the better known was the Idaho Press Club’s Annual Awards given to outstanding entrants from daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, magazines published in Idaho, television news, and public relations.   Here is a list of the award winners in each category.

Without question, the Idaho Statesman newspaper outperformed every other daily newspaper in the state.  Still, OpenCdA was somewhat surprised and disappointed to see that Idaho Statesman reporter John Sowell was not recognized for his reporting on the federal criminal trial and conviction of the defendants in the DBSI financial fraud scheme.    Covering complex financial crimes and reporting the trial evidence clearly yet concisely requires considerable journalism skill.   The Idaho Statesman deserves credit for giving Sowell the time and column-inches to do a very commendable job of news reporting.  (OpenCdA provided links to the Statesman’s articles in several of our posts.)

Readers in northern Idaho will note that our local daily newspaper, the Coeur d’Alene Press, was passed over for any awards, and our regional daily newspaper, The Spokesman-Review, received deservedly minimal recognition for its diminishing  coverage of northern Idaho news.

But as we opined, the Max Dalton Open Government Award given annually by the Idaho Newspaper Foundation is equally important.  That award recognizes individuals who employ either or both the Idaho Public Records Law and the Idaho Open Meeting Law to not just expose abuses by public officials but to try and get those abuses corrected.   The 2015 Max Dalton Open Government Award went to Heidi Knittel of Nampa.

Here is a link to the letter which nominated Ms. Knittel.  Readers will note that Ms. Knittel’s request for public records was denied, yet she persisted and with the help of her local news media, was able to get Idaho’s Legislature to examine the issues she raised.   Heidi Knittel’s persistence is typical among good citizens who are nearly always rebuffed and  maligned by dishonest public officials who fear being exposed to those whom they took an oath or affirmation to represent.

There were other citizens who in our opinion were equally deserving of the Max Dalton Open Government Award this year.

  • As a result of his persistent efforts using the Idaho Public Records Law to bring allegedly unlawful acts by the Jefferson County Sheriff to light, Bruce Baxter of Jefferson County was nominated.  His efforts have resulted in the Sheriff of Jefferson County, Idaho, being indicted on four state felonies.  That prosecution has also drawn the interest of the FBI.
  • Rhonda, Eric and Sam D’Amico of Pocatello used the Idaho Public Records Law to expose the outrageous amount of public money Idaho State University intended to spend to remodel the home of ISU’s President.   When they sought public records of the intended costs  from Idaho State University, the University responded by imposing a statutorily-authorized but exorbitant cost to provide the public information the D’Amicos wanted.  Not deterred by this often-used and officially allowed method to discourage citizens from seeking access to the information already paid for by their taxes, the D’Amicos used an imaginative technique to raise the money demanded by Idaho State University.   Having received the public records fees it demanded, ISU was forced to turn over the information the D’Amico’s had sought.  After analyzing and cataloging the public documents, the D’Amico’s went one step further and donated the compendium of their efforts to the Idaho State University Library so the public could continue to have access to them.  The D’Amico’s diligence and hard work was reported in the Idaho Statesman, and several other newspapers picked up on their work to expose what ISU had hoped to hide.
  • For several years Frank Davis of Coeur d’Alene has systematically sought public financial records from various Kootenai County offices.  His analysis of those records has revealed very disturbing irregularities and patterns which would be difficult to explain away as simply clerical errors or ignorance.   Davis’s efforts to get Kootenai County officials to acknowledge and correct the accounting processes have, not surprisingly, been discouraged.   Some of Davis’s information found its way to the Idaho Attorney General’s office which has assigned a Deputy Attorney General and an investigator from its Criminal Law Division.  In November 2014 the Attorney General’s Office issued a subpoena duces tecum to the Kootenai County Clerk demanding the Clerk to collate certain financial records from Kootenai County officials and submit them to the Attorney General’s Office.   OpenCdA observes that Davis’s information,  described as “gibberish” by an editor of the Coeur d’Alene Press, was sufficiently clear for the Attorney General’s Office to justify issuing the subpoena duces tecum.

OpenCdA believes that factual, timely, and complete news reporting is one of the most effective deterrents to misconduct and crimes against the public by officials elected and appointed to faithfully and diligently represent us.

At the same time, we have an even higher regard for private citizens who use the public records and open meeting laws to expose not just laziness and incompetence in public office but also misconduct and betrayal of the public’s trust by those in the offices.  It takes very courageous and persistent people to expose corruption of public officials, particularly when those officials are part of the criminal justice system.


  1. I was somewhat surprised to see that the only newspaper in North Idaho, the Lewiston Tribune, failed to receive any awards.

    Comment by Gary Ingram — April 27, 2015 @ 11:13 am

  2. Gary,

    One thing about the Idaho Press Club categories that seemed odd to me: “Public Relations” Really? That seems antithetical to news reporting. PR may be factual, but it will always be slanted to favor the client. The slant usually comes in the form of selective or incomplete representation of the factual information. Information which may be completely or nearly factually accurate but intentionally incomplete has another name: Disinformation.

    Comment by Bill — April 27, 2015 @ 11:26 am

  3. Thank goodness that we have people in our communities that are honest and not afraid to disclose the fraud, corruption and misdeeds of our elected officials. To any and all of them I send my THANK YOU, you are very appreciated and deserving of the nominations and awaards.

    Comment by Sharon Culbreth — April 28, 2015 @ 9:28 am

  4. This media thing in Idaho is pitiful. A couple of years ago, I asked the editor of the CDAPress if he knew anything about the Judicial Media/Courts Committee and if he was attending their next meeting? He did not have a clue. So there you go, a mainstream newspaper editor, not even remotely interested in how he got on a Supreme Court Judicial Committee. I called Sue Fellen years ago as well, she is still on the Rule 32 Committee. She did not know how she got there, either. But she is still participating along with Betsy Russell, reporter for the S-R and Idaho Press Club President, but nobody really knows if they do anything or not. Additionally, the Media/Courts guide for the Supreme Court is now ghastly outdated, and I for one await for the Supreme Court to appoint or hire a new Director of the Courts, since Patti Tobias left months ago and her duties were assumed by two Supreme Court Justices, who do not appear to be able to fill her shoes or do the job. The Committee rosters are also grossly outdated. It infuriates me to see this branch of government operate so ineptly. No wonder our local Judges would not let Cliff Hayes take a look at their budgets, their dissemination of public information is a crying shame god only knows how horribly they may mismanage their money. May 26th, there is a meeting of people, no one knows who they are, and they are having a Garnishment/Execution Study Group Meeting. What is that? Nobody knows where it is either. This stuff is supposed to be public information but it not available, you have to find someone who knows, or if you really want to know, one must contact the Supreme Court Deputy Legal Counsel – at (208) 334-2246 or email – because I am pretty sure no one in this area could tell you.

    Comment by Stebbijo — April 28, 2015 @ 7:08 pm

  5. Stebbijo,

    It’s easier and more effective to co-opt a judge than to convince several legislators. When one realizes that many of Idaho’s state judges are dead-enders — their lack of legal acumen is readily apparent — it’s not a stretch to consider the possibility that some Idaho judges just might be swayed by local political expedience rather than facts and law. I believe Justice Eismann recognized and articulated that when he began his dissent in the Nield decision.

    Comment by Bill — April 29, 2015 @ 6:41 am

  6. Here is another interesting case that did not get much media attention until it was over. I just learned about it because my cousin was on the jury. So, I looked it up after they decided and she posted about it. Inmate’s family gets $8 million jury award They wanted to send a loud message that police neglect and brutality is not accepted.

    Comment by Stebbijo — April 29, 2015 @ 5:47 pm

  7. Sorry, I must of messed up the link – here it is

    Comment by Stebbijo — April 29, 2015 @ 5:48 pm

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