OpenCDA

October 23, 2011

Cover Up? Yes!

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 3:30 pm

Who owns the Coeur d’Alene Public Library?

On October 11, Sharon Culbreth, Representative Kathy Sims, and Mary Souza revealed to about 80 citizens at the Lake City Center that the Library was owned by the Lake City Development Corporation (LCDC), an Idaho urban renewal agency.

Mary Souza’s post on OpenCda.com on October 16 linked to the documents showing the Library is owned by the LCDC.

Then on October 20, the Coeur d’Alene Press ran an article headlined Book it:  City owns library.  Clever headline, but the article did not produce any documentation showing City ownership.

Representative Kathy Sims’ “My Turn” column in the October 22 Coeur d’Alene Press is headlined “Exposing the city’s cover up.”  Is that too harsh?  After all, “cover up” alleges an action or series of actions done intentionally to hide something.  In this instance, it is exactly the correct terminology.

Rep. Sims “My Turn” column referred to the warranty deed transferring the Mobberley Trust’s ownership of the land to the Coeur d’Alene Library Foundation in 2001.  Here is a link to that April 2001 warranty deed.  Then, 17 days later, the Library Foundation executed a quitclaim deed transferring half-interest in the land to the LCDC.  Here is a link to that April 2001 quitclaim deed.  Finally, in June 2007 the Library Foundation executed a warranty deed transferring the remaining half-interest in the land to the LCDC.  Here is a link to that June 2007 warranty deed.  The legal description of the land is identical on all three deeds.

Representative Sims newspaper column also reported that Kootenai County Assessor Mike McDowell provided a topographical map showing the exact layout of the property.  In her “My Turn” column, she stated, “A portion of your new Coeur d’Alene Library building and its parking lot reside on property owned in total by Lake City Development Corp. (LCDC), not the City of Coeur d’Alene. ”  So the Coeur d’Alene Public Library building is partially on land owned by LCDC and partially on land owned by the City.

There are some fundamental questions needing honest answers that can be verified with valid, authenticated public records (not just the word of some City or LCDC spokesmouth):

(1) Why did an Idaho urban renewal agency, the LCDC,  ever have a property interest in the Coeur d’Alene Public Library?

(2) Why were Coeur d’Alene voters not told that an Idaho urban renewal agency, the LCDC, had an ownership interest before they voted to approve the Library bond in 2005?

To understand the validity of the first question, it is extremely important for readers to understand that any urban renewal agency in Idaho, including the LCDC, is not a component of the municipality that authorized it.   Idaho Code §50-2006 states that the Idaho legislature “…created in each municipality an independent public body corporate and politic to be known as the ‘urban renewal agency…” [emphasis mine].  That statute further provides that the urban renewal agency may not exercise its statutorily-defined powers and authority until after the local governing body has adopted a finding of necessity (see Idaho Code §50-2005).  Once such a finding of necessity has been made and the urban renewal agency empowered, it functions (as I.C. 50-2006 states) as an independent public body corporate and politic.   And the Idaho Supreme Court in Boise Redevelopment Agency vs. Yick Kong Corporation, 94 Idaho 876; 499 P.2d 575 (1972), made that even clearer when it stated, “While the particular city may trigger the existence of the [urban renewal agency], it cannot control its powers or operations.” The Court also observed, “The degree of control exercised by the [city] does not usurp the powers and duties of the [urban renewal agency], and the close association between the two entities at most shows two independent public closely cooperating for valid public purposes.” [emphasis mine]

In 2009  in the appeal captioned Urban Renewal Agency of the City of Rexburg  v. Kenneth W. Hart, 148 Idaho 299; 222 P.3d 467 (2009), the Idaho Supreme Court reaffirmed what it has said in Yick Kong, that urban renewal agencies are not the “alter egos” of cities.

Those two Idaho Supreme Court cases 37 years apart make it very clear that the Lake City Development Corporation (LCDC) is completely separate from the City of Coeur d’Alene.  Thus, whatever business is conducted between the City and the LCDC must be conducted following whatever laws govern the conduct of business between any two separate and distinct political subdivisions of the state of Idaho.

As an independent political subdivision of the state of Idaho, the LCDC can do a lot of things with its ownership interest in the Coeur d’Alene Public Library.  The LCDC could “… mortgage, pledge, hypothecate or otherwise encumber or dispose of any real property.”  (See Idaho Code §50-2007.)  In other words, folks, the LCDC could sell its ownership interest in the Library, and the LCDC could pledge its ownership interest to secure a loan!

Understanding the preceding information may answer the second question raised.  It may be clearer why the LCDC and the City wanted to cover up the LCDC’s ownership interest in the Library.  Remember, in February 2005 the City held a bond election to raise money to construct the new Coeur d’Alene Public Library.  By many accounts, that bond election was expected to be an uphill battle.  In fact, that was the terminology used in this Spokesman-Review editorial dated May 30, 2004.

Isn’t it interesting that  in 2001, three years before that Spokesman-Review editorial, the Coeur d’Alene Library Foundation, Inc. had deeded half interest in the Library to the LCDC?  Isn’t it also interesting that the Coeur d’Alene Library Foundation’s 2001 Annual Report lists the Foundation’s president as Jon Hippler, presumably the same Jon Hippler who was listed as President/CEO on Mountain West Bank’s 2001 Annual Report along with one of the Bank’s directors, Charles Nipp.  That would be the same Charles Nipp who was a Commissioner with the Lake City Development Corporation (LCDC) and who had served as its Chairman from 1997 through 2008. Back in 2001, why didn’t Hippler, Nipp, the Mayor, anyone explain to the public why it was so important that the LCDC have an ownership interest in the Coeur d’Alene Public Library?  For that matter, why don’t they explain it now?

Prior to the bond vote in 2005, there were other opportunities for officials to tell the public about the LCDC’s ownership interest in the Library before it was even built.

For example, on January 7 and then on January 9, 2005, less than one month before the Library bond election, the Coeur d’Alene Press carried a two-part “Guest Opinion” authored by Sandy Patano and Denny Davis.  Patano and Davis were co-chairmen of the Citizens for a New Library Committee, a committee to raise funds for the new library.  Sandy Patano was identified as the state director for US Senator Larry Craig, and Denny Davis was identified as a local attorney in private practice with Witherspoon, Kelley, Davenport, & Toole.  Both “Guest Opinion” pieces were titled, “Frequently asked questions about the library bond election.”  If the public had known, one of those frequently asked questions might have been, “Why does the LCDC need to have an ownership interest in our Coeur d’Alene Public Library?”  In fact, the only mention of the LCDC was in the second part.  It read, “The fact that a portion of the future library site was donated by the city and the rest was purchased in partnership with the Lake City Development Corporation makes this location a very fiscally responsible decision for all citizens.”  That is a far cry from truthfully telling prospective voters, “The Lake City Development Corporation will have an ownership interest in the Coeur d’Alene Public Library.”  Indeed, the LCDC buzzphrase for most of its deals is “public-private partnerships.”

The Library bond election was held on February 1, 2005.  Here is a link to the City ordinance authorizing that election.  No mention of the LCDC’s partial ownership interest anywhere in the ordinance.   And here are links to Part 1 and Part 2 of the legal announcement for the ballot wording.  No mention of LCDC here, either.  The Library bond passed, and at its regularly-scheduled meeting on March 1, 2005, the Coeur d’Alene City Council appointed that same Dennis (Denny) Davis to the Lake City Development Corporation.

Finally, the joint City Council/LCDC meeting held on May 9, 2006, at the City Hall would have been a good opportunity to discuss the LCDC ownership interest for the public, particular since in the meeting minutes’ section titled Library Funding there was considerable discussion about some funding issues.  No mention of LCDC ownership interest, however.

The Coeur d’Alene Press article headlined Book it:  City owns library included a statement that, “She [City Administrator Wendy Gabriel] then asked Tymesen to request the county switch the library to the city’s parcel, which the county did.” Gabriel also said, “I have the latitude to correct anything that needs to be corrected.”  In her “My Turn” column, Representative Sims said she urged Kootenai County Assessor Mike McDowell to talk with the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office before changing any records that may be public records.   That was good advice offered to ensure compliance with Idaho’s laws, specifically Idaho Code, Title 18, Chapter 32.

Contrary to the articles in the Coeur d’Alene Press, it has not been conclusively resolved to everyone’s satisfaction that the City of Coeur d’Alene has the sole ownership interest in the Coeur d’Alene Public Library.  It needs to be resolved, and the public is entitled to a clear, concise, understandable explanation about why the LCDC ever had an ownership interest and why the public was not explicitly and clearly informed of that interest back in 2001.  The absence of conclusive, documented public records showing City ownership supports Representative Kathy Sims’ column “Exposing the city’s cover up.”

Addendum on October 25, 2011, at 11:26 a.m.:  This morning the Coeur d’Alene Press posted Representative Kathy Sims’ “My Turn” column titled Exposing the city’s cover up on the newspaper’s website.  The column had first appeared in print in the Saturday Coeur d’Alene Press.  I’ve just added a link in the body of this post and as this addendum.

 

15 Comments

  1. On Sunday this post in draft form was inadvertently put up prematurely. It was incomplete. Before I could take it down, a commenter, “Justinian,” had posted a comment. I have deleted his comment, because it was based on my incomplete post. His comment was within our guidelines; there was nothing wrong with it, but it would have been unfair to him/her to leave up a comment based on material s/he had not yet seen.

    Comment by Bill — October 24, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

  2. Title insurance? If there exists dual ownership of the land then it has to be shown on the title policy. No REAL bank would lend anything on a property with a clouded title. If the cure to that defect was to have only a single owner for the property why not the city? Why did not the LCDC cede its minor property interest to the city instead of the city deeding its major holdings to the LCDC? I also understand that all of the subsequent accounting did not accurately reflect the status of the assets. The city still showed the library as an asset and the LCDC did not. What other accounting errors exist? These are highly paid civil servants dealing with millions in civil funds. Does the LCDC keep 2 sets of books, one to show the public, the other to impress prospective investors/developers? This situation merits a comprehensive investigation and criminal charges if warranted. It’s all way too fuzzy and way too weird. Something went on that is being swept under the carpeting.

    Comment by Wallypog — October 25, 2011 @ 4:28 am

  3. Wallypog,

    I wish I had answers to all of your questions, but your last statements is right on the money. It is possible that the answer, at least in part, is in the S-R editorial on May 30, 2004. It may be in the fourth paragraph which includes this statement, “And the Coeur d’Alene Library Foundation realizes now it can’t fund its dream solely with private donations and grants.” [emphasis mine] But it had apparently realized that in 2001 when it deeded half-interest to the LCDC. Now go back to paragraph two of that editorial, which includes this line, “And, most important, they remember the promise by library supporters in 2000 that they wouldn’t use public funds to construct a new building, next to City Hall.” My opinion is that they knew or were at least concerned in 2000 when that promise was made that it would be necessary to break it.

    Comment by Bill — October 25, 2011 @ 7:04 am

  4. “fundamental questions needing honest answers”…GOOD LUCK WITH THAT. Until such time as the sheep on the city council notice that city hall is burning, or they are replaced, that is not going to happen. The current council members have proven that there is literally no hope that they will take notice. I certainly don’t expect the council members to know the DETAILS of all of the documents necessary to implement council decisions. That is the responsibility of the city’s staff. I do expect the city council members to investigate the smoke pouring from the back room and hold staff members accountable to make sure that they are correct. In a few cases accountability will mean firing them, in a few cases that mean reprimand, and in the remaining cases that will mean a firm directive that those on ‘fire watch’ best not be sleeping.

    Comment by Joe Six-Pack — October 25, 2011 @ 7:22 am

  5. Joe Six-Pack,

    I expect our mayor and city council members to know enough about the issues to know when they are being BS’d by the staff. Look again at yesterday’s newspaper article headlined Nepotism rules slip under city’s radar. Radar? What radar? They don’t need radar; they need a polygraph examiner and people with badges, guns, and subpoenas to come in! How does the city attorney, the city administrator (also an attorney), and the city HR director not know there are state laws defining and prohibiting nepotism? The answer is, they do know and did know. Now I want to know why they’re feeding this BS story to us that they didn’t know. How much confidence can the mayor and city council possible have in their City Administrator, their City Attorney, and their HR Director to give them accurate, complete, and timely advice? Because if our Mayor and City Council continue to blindly accept bad advice, then all of them need to be replaced. I truly believe that some of our public officials and their cronies do not want fellow council members who will ask questions and who come equipped with first-rate BS filters already installed and operational.

    Comment by Bill — October 25, 2011 @ 7:51 am

  6. Bill,

    Do you think they knew, allowed and were saving for such an occasion as to keep people in line?

    Comment by concerned citizen — October 25, 2011 @ 8:07 am

  7. concerned citizen,

    I don’t know if that is what happened, but that is exactly the kind of sword hanging over one’s head that might temper one’s remarks on matters of public importance. I’m sure it’s purely coincidental that the Edinger issue was publicized in and by the Coeur d’Alene Press only after he spoke out in favor of a public vote on McEuen Field. What I’m wondering is why the Press isn’t screaming editorially for Gridley, W. Gabriel, and MacDonald to be fired.

    Comment by Bill — October 25, 2011 @ 8:14 am

  8. Bill “What I’m wondering is why the Press isn’t screaming editorially for Gridley, W. Gabriel, and MacDonald to be fired.”

    Haven’t you seen the poll on the home page of the Press? The poll shows that most of the responders don’t think these types of shenanigans are all that important. No big deal. Talk about being ambivalent with government.

    Comment by Ancientemplar — October 25, 2011 @ 10:50 am

  9. This town doesn’t know what Good Government looks like, Ancient, it’s been like this for so very long. If it wasn’t for the hot button issue of McEuen Field, many people would still be asleep to the antics of this administration. But the park has awoken them up, and they are spitting mad! I’ve been hearing stories of folks who are long-time Democrats, telling George Sayler that he’s on the wrong side of McEuen and he will not be getting their vote.

    Dan Gookin, Steve Adams and Ron Edinger are the strong voices for keeping McEuen a citizen-oriented park with a public vote.

    Comment by mary — October 25, 2011 @ 11:14 am

  10. If anyone missed Rep. Kathy Sims’ terrific My Turn column in the Press last Saturday, it’s now up online on their site.

    Comment by mary — October 25, 2011 @ 11:16 am

  11. Ancientemplar,

    These shenanigans are that important, because they give the voters some insight into the official performance of duty (or failures of duty) of our elected and appointed public officials and the people they hire. It’s about accountability.

    Comment by Bill — October 25, 2011 @ 11:19 am

  12. Hey, Ancient, I just noticed, on the Press poll that you were talking about, that if you add up the two categories that say the nepotism issues at city hall are “significant” and “rampant”, they total 57%. That’s far more than the 42% who say the problem is only “isolated”.

    Comment by mary — October 25, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  13. Dynamite, its about time the citizenry becomes actively involved. Complacency truly breeds corruption. This maybe the turning of the screw. There has to be a tipping point and if we’re diligent we’ll come to it.

    Comment by Ancientemplar — October 25, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

  14. Diligent and vigilant!

    Comment by Ancientemplar — October 25, 2011 @ 4:06 pm

  15. Bill – thanks. My comments remain the same. Thank you Kathy Sims, keep the heat on!

    Comment by justinian — October 25, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

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