Suppose you’re an honest and diligent elected or appointed official in northern Idaho.
Or maybe you’re a planning commissioner or a city councilman in Coeur d’Alene. Or maybe you’re a newly-elected county clerk with a competent and honest chief deputy. Or maybe you’re a trustee in the local school district or community college. Or maybe you’re a city councilman in Athol.
Or maybe you’re among the many honest citizens who have seen and experienced dishonesty, deception, and signs of criminal exploitation among a distressing number of elected and appointed officials so you have turned to your local or county or state government and tried to report what you have observed.
If you’re one of the people among the aforementioned groups who want responsive, honest government, you all have one thing in common: You’ve very likely been told in one way or another to sit down, shut up, and don’t ask questions. “It’s not your responsibility.” Except you know it is. (more…)
According to a press release from the United States Attorney for the District of Idaho, former Athol City Clerk Sally R. Hansen pleaded guilty today to 15 counts of wire fraud.
“According to court documents, during the time of her employment, Hansen used the wires and fraudulently took $417,879 from the City of Athol. She did this by writing fraudulent checks to herself and her husband and using the wires to transfer money between different city accounts.
The maximum penalty for each count is up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release and $100 special assessment.”
Our January 10, 2015, post entitled “They Just Didn’t Do It” provided some details about how Hansen committed her crimes. With city officials paying little attention to what she was doing, it wasn’t difficult.
OpenCdA’s post on January 16, 2015, told readers how easily an employee of the city of Pasadena, CA, was able to allegedly embezzle about $5 million from the city. We commented that a public entity’s supervisor(s) have a duty to competently and diligently administer their departments and supervise their subordinates so that kind of criminal activity can not occur.
In its article headlined Pasadena fires two ranking administrators amid embezzlement case, today’s Los Angeles Times is reporting that as a result of the arrest of former Pasadena employee Danny Wooten for allegedly masterminding the embezzlement, the city has fired Pasadena Finance Department Director Andrew Green and Public Works Department Director Siobhan Foster. The city’s spokesflack confirmed the firings were related to the alleged embezzlement.
It’s apparent that the city of Pasadena, CA, understands that when an employee has allegedly been able to carry on an embezzlement over a period of several years, the employer must look at the diligence and quality of supervision of the employee and administration and auditing of financial programs.
OpenCdA wishes Coeur d’Alene’s mayor and council had responded similarly after city Finance Department employee Sheryl Carroll was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to 40 months in federal prison in 2013. But as we’ve noticed in Coeur d’Alene, looking the other way is often easier and more politically expedient that acting responsibly and appropriately.
Officials of local governments as well as school and community college districts have a duty to act in the best interests of their constituents. Too many officials are either unintentionally unaware or intentionally disregarding that duty and the penalties that can be imposed if they fail to diligently and honestly perform them. When those officials fail to diligently and impartially perform their oversight duties, dishonest insiders (usually trusted and long-time employees) exploit those failures for personal gain.
We have seen that in Kootenai County with the convictions of former Kootenai County Chief Deputy Clerk and Auditing Supervisor Sandra Martinson and former Coeur d’Alene City Finance Department Payroll Coordinator Sheryl Carroll. Recently former Athol City Clerk Sally Hansen has been charged in federal court with wire fraud and stealing approximately $400,000 from the city during her five years of employment.
But Idaho isn’t the only place where lax oversight by supervisors can lead to embezzlement and grand theft. In Pasadena, California, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Pastor Danny Wooten has been accused of embezzling over $5 million during the ten years he was working as a management analyst for the city of Pasadena. The January 15, 2015, Times article is headlined Pasadena embarrassed by charges that employee embezzled $5 million.
If you carefully read the Times article, you are going to see some of the same things we heard in the Martinson and Carroll cases. (more…)
According to this vacancy announcement posted on the Idaho Judicial Council website, First District Court Judge Benjamin Simpson will retire on April 30, 2015. A replacement will be appointed to fill out his unexpired term of office.
The deadline for receiving applications was January 5, 2015. Here is a list of the applicants.
Members of the Idaho Judicial Council will meet in Coeur d’Alene in March 2015 to interview candidates and select nominees. We don’t know if the interviews will be public.
The public may provide input to the Idaho Judicial Council about who from the list of applicants should be the next First District Court Judge. Here is the public questionnaire which the public must use to submit comments (positive or negative) about applicants.
What is the key to innovation? Advanced technology? Nope!
As this story in the Coeur d’Alene Press shows, advanced technology (in this case SMS – short message service, more commonly called text messaging) would have been ineffective had it not been for the innovative application of the technology by Post Falls Police Department dispatchers.
The key to innovation is people equipped first and foremost with nimble minds, people who are creative and innovative and unafraid to try something differently. In this case, a life was probably saved by dispatchers who creatively applied a tool provided to be used for a somewhat different purpose. Good for them, and good for the people who hired, trained, and supervise them!
OpenCdA could not help noticing that at least according to the Sunday Coeur d’Alene Press skewspaper article headlined A matter of public safety, newly-hired Police Chief Lee White wants to equip the Coeur d’Alene Police Department with a mobile command center (mouse click photo at left to enlarge) and a crime scene vehicle.
He estimated the combined cost of the two specialized vehicles would be approximately $300,000.
OpenCdA thinks that would be money well spent, a very wise investment. (more…)
OpenCdA applauds Athol’s newly-installed Mayor Darla Kuhman for her candor in trying to right the city’s finances after former City Clerk Sally Hansen was charged in federal court with stealing approximately $400,000 from the city during her five years of employment. Hansen was also faces 15 counts of wire fraud.
Unfortunately for Mayor Kuhman and the citizens of Athol, the Idaho County Risk Management Program (ICRMP) has informed the City that ICRMP intends to deny the City’s insurance claim to recover much of the loss, because the City had failed to conduct the statutorily-required audits during at least part of the loss period. That law clearly states, “It shall be the duty of the council in every city to cause to be made a full and complete audit of the financial statements of such city as required in section 67-450B, Idaho Code.” But as Mayor Kuhman was quoted saying in this morning’s Press article, referring to the required audits, “They just didn’t do it.”
President Obama’s press office has released preliminary information about the administration’s proposed America’s College Promise program. The stated purpose of the proposal is to encourage graduating high school students to use the community colleges as a stepping-stone to baccalaureate programs.
This morning’s Washington Post article headlined Obama to unveil proposal for tuition-free community college summarizes the administration’s press release and adds a little bit of reader appeal.
OpenCdA is anxious to see Idaho’s evaluation of the President’s proposal.
It seems as if hardly a week goes by that we don’t hear about this Congressional committee or that one planning to hold hearings or undertake some other action to exercise its oversight function.
But how many citizens know what oversight by Congress involves and how it works? For that matter, how many Congressmen know?
To make understanding Congressional oversight easier, the Congressional Research Service has recently updated its 154-page Congressional Oversight Manual.
The manual explains the purposes of Congressional oversight which include:
- Ensure Executive compliance with Legislative intent
- Improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and economy of governmental operations
- Prevent executive encroachment on legislative prerogatives and powers
- Assess agency or officials’ ability to manage and carry out program objectives
- Ensure that executive policies reflect the public interest
- Protect individual rights and liberties
The manual elaborates on what is involved in accomplishing these and other purposes.
As Woodrow Wilson said in 1885:
Quite as important as legislation is vigilant oversight of administration.
It is the proper duty of a representative body to look diligently into every affair of government and to talk much about what it sees. It is meant to be the eyes and the voice, and to embody the wisdom and will of its constituents.