Mary Souza’s Newsletter
Dear Newsletter Readers,
I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful, as we who live in this beautiful part of the world and this land of the free have so much for which to be thankful. I am also giving thanks for the turnaround in the mid-term elections, both nationally and here at the local level. More about that later.
But amidst the relief of the overall election results, there lurks an ever-growing aura of anger and audacity which is emanating from Coeur d’Alene’s city hall.
You probably noticed the front page headline in yesterday’s Press, “City Seeks Fees from Brannon”. In a move that makes nearly everyone who attended the Election Challenge trial scratch their heads, the city is now attempting to make Jim Brannon pay $36,000 of the city’s legal fees and costs. Jim is already burdened with his own legal costs, and the only way he should have to pay the city’s is if the election challenge was deemed “frivolous” or without merit. That was hardly the case!
Judge Hosack stated openly in court that the election challenge was a serious, substantive case with strong research, evidence and important implications for all voters in Idaho. He complimented Jim and his attorney Starr Kelso on their efforts. The judge echoed these same thoughts in his written decision. And now the challenge case is on appeal to the State Supreme Court.
So why would the city pursue such a blatant slap at Jim Brannon? Because they want to scare off anyone else who might try to stand up against city decisions. And, in my opinion, Mike Kennedy and Chief City Attorney Mike Gridley are mad.
Remember that when Mike Gridley was called as a witness during the trial, he acted like a petulant, rude teenager? He told the Election Challenge attorney to take his papers and “shove them up your ass”. This was in the courtroom, on the witness stand, under oath, in his official capacity as our chief city attorney. We were paying him for this unprofessional behavior!
In an additional twist to this bizarre move by the city to get money from Jim Brannon, Mike Kennedy is asking the taxpayers of CdA to pay more than $100,000 for the two private attorneys he hired in this case. Mike Kennedy was named in the Election Contest case as a private citizen and only because it is required by Idaho law that the winner of the election be named. Mike did not have to hire any attorneys. He was never accused of anything; there was nothing he needed to defend against. It was Mike’s choice to bring in two of his own expensive attorneys.
What was puzzling to me, during the trial, is why Chief City Attorney Mike Gridley was sitting in the audience? Other than his short, but dramatic, stint on the witness stand, he was sitting in the back of the room with the large contingent of city employees we were all paying day after day after day. (that had to add up!) Why was Mike Gridley not up in front representing the City of CdA? Why did legal department instead pay private attorney Mike Haman to come in and represent the City?
Our city legal department probably paid Mike Haman a big part of $36,000 to conduct the trial for the city, while also paying our chief city attorney to sit in back and watch. (He makes way over $100,000)
And, if Mike Kennedy was so concerned about his own defense, why was he sitting in the back of the courtroom, day after day, texting constantly, rather than sitting up at the front table with all the attorneys. That’s where Jim Brannon was every single day, paying close attention, conferring with his attorney and taking careful notes.
All these questions aside, the city’s move to now seek substantial money from Jim Brannon is in poor form. There were huge problems and errors during the ‘09 election. There were four city positions up for a vote then. Two of them were decided by historically close numbers: 29 votes in one race and only 5 votes in the other.
Even with such close margins, the mayor and council did not ask one question when the totals (called the “canvass of the votes”) were presented to them by their subcontractor, the County Elections Dept. The totals were listed on a single piece of paper. There was no additional documentation, no backup information, no detail provided….and none was requested by the mayor or council. Can you say “Rubber Stamp”?
It was the mayor and city council who should be under scrutiny right now. They did not do their job for the voters of Coeur d’Alene; they did not make sure the city election was accurate and trustworthy. This was their failure of duty.
Well readers, let’s end this newsletter on a happy note. WE, the voters of Kootenai County, just elected a new person to be in charge of elections as our County Clerk! That’s good news.
I met with our upcoming County Clerk, Cliff Hayes, yesterday. We had a great talk and I was impressed with his determination to clean up the problems. He is already working to research the issues and connect with the people involved. Cliff made my day with his response to my concerns: He said firmly and with authority, “These things will not continue after I’m sworn in on January 11th.” Thanks Cliff, we’re glad you’ll be at the helm!
Have a great weekend. –Mary
PS: I’ve been hearing from some of you about your tax bills. Even though assessments generally went down, our taxes have gone up. Some by 10%, some by much more. It seems small business is getting hit the hardest. If you have any comments or specific info for me on this topic of our local tax bills, please send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
ALSO: A court hearing for the Election Challenge will be held this next Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 2pm in whichever Kootenai County courtroom is deemed for Judge Hosack. This is the same day as the CdA City Council will consider whether to pay Mike Kennedy’s legal fees. That action will be at the city council meeting in the Library’s community room on the lower level. The meeting starts at 6pm, the Kennedy issue will be sometime later, though they said in the Press it will be in public, not in Executive Session.