October 8, 2014

On Direction From … Whom?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 9:53 am

brannonCLERKAt about 6:30 AM today, OpenCdA spoke via telephone with Kootenai County Clerk Jim Brannon.  Our question was this:  Given the actions taken in the last few days by both the US Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, what guidance have Idaho’s county clerks received from the Idaho Attorney General and the Idaho Secretary of State regarding the implementation of the two courts’ directives on same-sex marriage?

The answer was shocking but given that this is Idaho, totally unsurprising.

Brannon stated that he had received no direct guidance from the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney, the Idaho Secretary of State, or the Idaho Attorney General.  What he had received, however, were email messages from the Idaho Association of Counties, Inc., a lobbying organization.  Those messages represented that the Idaho Association of Counties was speaking for and on the authority of the Idaho Attorney General.

We then asked Brannon to cite the statutory authority of Idaho’s county clerks to take official direction to formulate administrative action from the Idaho Association of Counties, Inc.  Absent that, we asked him to cite any written directive from the Idaho Attorney General or the Idaho Secretary of State delegating that authority to the Idaho Association of Counties, Inc., a lobbying organization.  He was unaware of any such authority.

And that raises this issue:   Where have the respective officers of Idaho’s Executive Department specifically and formally directed Idaho’s county clerks to formulate policies and procedures based on  emails or other directives from the Idaho Association of Counties, Inc., a lobbying organization?   Put another way, on what legal authority would Idaho’s county clerks act solely at the direction of a lobbying organization?

It seems to OpenCdA that to the extent Idaho’s county clerks are charged with executing certain laws and court decisions, the guidance on exactly how to perform those duties should come directly to the county clerks only from either the Idaho Attorney General or the Idaho Secretary of State, possibly after consultation with the respective county prosecuting attorneys.   We believe that it would be the height of irresponsibility for Idaho’s Executive Department to rely on a lobbying organization to accurately communicate such important matters to Idaho’s county clerks.

Then again, this is Idaho …

October 5, 2014

First Steps in Rehab…

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 11:52 am

USSS BadgeThe US Secret Service needs to be rehabilitated.  Just as with people most needing rehab, the first step is for the USSS to openly acknowledge it really does need it.  Failing to follow that with appropriate action rather than empty words will result in repeated starts followed by repeated failures.

In fairness to the agency and its employees, the need for rehab has been evident to many people for years.   It may now have reached the point that to be successful, if it can be, the rehab must be once again involuntarily imposed as it was with what the Warren Commission and its classified subcommittees did after President Kennedy was killed.   We hope it won’t take the burial of another assassinated President or some extremely damaging and enduring national security breach to stimulate Congress and the Executive Branch, but the indicators are that the Secret Service continues its cultural resistance to needed institutional change.  (more…)

October 2, 2014

Maybe This Time …

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 8:28 am

USSS BadgeIn a press release issued September 30, 2014, and then again in a second press release issued October 1, 2014, after the resignation of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson had been accepted, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, announced that he intends to introduce legislation to appoint a blue-ribbon commission or a panel of experts (depending on which press release the reader believes) to conduct a top-to-bottom examination of the US Secret Service.

And yesterday Homeland Security Secretary Jae Johnson announced that he, too, would convene a panel of experts to review the Secret Service.

Regardless of who convenes and conducts a review of the Secret Service, OpenCdA agrees that such an examination is needed.  In fact it’s years overdue. (more…)

September 28, 2014

Corruption Commission Concludes Testimony

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 1:47 pm

CorruptionEveryonePaysPublic testimony has concluded  in Quebec’s public corruption probe.

The corruption commission headed by Justice France Charbonneau was instituted in 2011 to examine the extent of corruption in the province’s construction industry and that industry’s ties with organized crime and provincial and local governments.

Evidence was presented which showed substantial and longstanding  infiltration by organized crime into the construction industry as well as the collusive and corrupt involvement of provincial and local government officials in awarding public contracts.

The most colorful and possibly most damaging testimony came from construction magnate Tony Accurso.  “His testimony provided an intimate window into the cosy [sic] relationship between Quebec political figures and businessmen who rely on public contracts for their livelihoods,” according to the story headlined Donations to Quebec Liberals the cost of doing business, Accurso tells corruption probe in the September 5, 2014,online news medium  The article’s subheadline reads “Charbonneau commission hears about illegal political donations from construction boss at heart of Quebec’s corruption scandal.”

Organized crime’s infiltration into Quebec’s construction industry was fleshed out a bit in the September 17, 2014, Daily Commercial News story headlined High profile Quebec corruption inquiry hears from last witness.   Lest we think organized crime would not be interested in infiltrating the very lucrative construction industry in the United States, the article reported that one of the Charbonneau Commission’s witnesses was former US FBI Special Agent Joseph Pistone whose testimony “… served as a primer on the Mafia’s long-standing infiltration of the construction industry.”  And then there was this article from the article dated September 3, 2014.  The article’s headline, Montreal mafia boss was a contact, construction magnate tells corruption probe, says it all.

The Charbonneau Commission is expected to issue its final report in April 2015.

Of course, the corruption of public officials to induce them to provide lucrative public contracts only happens in the Canadian Province of Quebec.  It could never happen in the State of Idaho.  It’s not as if multimillion dollar construction contracts are awarded by Idaho’s state and local governments.    And it’s not as if Idaho’s judges, prosecutors, county commissioners, sheriffs, mayors, and city councils would ever accept campaign finance contributions or other remuneration to use their discretion and influence to make sure that corruption investigations never get off the ground or to steer construction contracts toward “generous” contributors.  No, that could never happen here in Idaho or Kootenai County or Coeur d’Alene …

September 17, 2014

Coeur d’Alene: Most Dangerous City in Idaho?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 11:45 am

violentcrimeIs Coeur d’Alene, Idaho really the most dangerous city in Idaho?  Could be.

Last night on KREM2 news out of Spokane, reporter Shawn Chitnis reported on a recent analysis of  FBI violent crime statistics.  His story was headlined Spokane and Coeur d’Alene rank high on dangerous city list.

We contacted KREM2 reporter Shawn Chitnis this morning, and he responded very promptly to provide the online source for his story.

A group called Law Street Media did a 50-state analysis of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report information for 2012, the most recent year for which complete data was available.

Here is a link to Law Street Media’s state-by-state slideshow:  America’s Safest and Most Dangerous States 2014.  It is important to read LSM’s introductory material to understand some of the factors that can sometimes skew the figures.

But a review of the LSM’s data for Idaho leaves little doubt that Coeur d’Alene could certainly be considered Idaho’s most dangerous city.

September 16, 2014

Idaho Statesman Op-Ed Missed the Mark

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 12:04 pm

Missed the MarkThis morning’s Idaho Statesman opinion piece was entitled Our View:  Police, dog owners must share responsibility.  The unnamed writer was commenting, collectively, on three recent shootings of pet dogs by Idaho law enforcement officers.

The op-ed writer mentioned Coeur d’Alene, so we presume he was including the Arfee killing by a Coeur d’Alene police officer.  If so, the writer might want to reread the officer’s account of the shooting.  According to the officer, Arfee appeared suddenly in the partially open van window just inches from the officer’s face.  In what sounds to us to be a “startle” reaction, the officer fired his already-unholstered weapon once and killed Arfee.

The op-ed writer’s first premise was that in most and maybe every instance, there should be enough time for an officer to carefully assess a dog’s various behaviors and then set a non-lethal course of action. His second premise is that an unattended but lawfully and safely contained dog will always obey commands from a police officer or an animal control officer.

We address the op-ed writer’s second premise first.  It’s absurd.

The first premise is very desirable, but it will require the police to do more than just learn dog behaviors.  They will need to adjust their approach to various situations so that “startle” reactions are less likely to result in gunfire.  In the Arfee killing, we wonder:  Why had the officer unholstered his weapon?  If his overall assessment of the situation required (in his mind)  unholstering his weapon, might there have been actions he and his trainee partner and additional officers could have taken first to preclude the perceived necessity of unholstering his weapon and thereby being at risk of a “startle” shooting?

We admit it:  We are second-guessing.  Then again, we have little choice.  The first guesses — the ones that result in training, policy, and procedures — needed to have been taken by the Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, the Coeur d’Alene Chief of Police, and the Coeur d’Alene Police Department training officer.  Apparently, they weren’t.

OpenCdA wishes that when there are serious incidents like the ones mentioned in today’s op-ed, the Idaho Statesman and the rest of Idaho’s (alleged) news media would focus as much on the failures of command and leadership in Idaho’s law enforcement agencies and the Idaho Peace Officers Standards and Training Council as they focus on the behavior of the individual officer who pulled the trigger.

September 15, 2014

J-1 Magistrate Candidates

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 1:59 pm

Judge copyThe list of applicants who wish to replace retiring First District Magistrate Judge Barry Watson has been released.  Here are the applicants:

BRECK, KEVIN HAMILTON is an Attorney, Winston & Chasatt Law Firm, Spokane, WA
BROOKS, JERRI LYNN is a Private Practice Attorney, Hayden, ID
BROOKS, KENNETH DAVID is a Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor, Coeur d’Alene, ID
COMBO, JAMES FRANCIS is an Attorney, Law Offices of Charles F. Bean, Coeur d’Alene, ID
CRAIG, JAMES EDWARD MONROE is Assistant Chief Counsel, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Orlando, FL
DUGGAN, BARBARA ANN is an Ada County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Boise, ID
FELTON, MICHAEL HARLAND is a Private Practice Attorney/Special Deputy Attorney General for the 5th District, Buhl, ID
GARDNER, DONNA CAROL is a Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor, Coeur d’Alene, ID
GLEN, SHAWN MARIE is Hagadone Directories, Inc. Account Executive, Coeur d’Alene, ID
HAMMOND, JOHN RICHARD is a Partner-Attorney with Fisher Pusch & Krueck Law Firm, Boise, ID
HOLMES, EDWIN BOWMAN is a Private Practice Attorney, Coeur d’Alene, ID
PATTERSON, GEORGE C. is a Private Practice Attorney, Boise, ID
ROSEN, DENISE LINN is a First District Deputy Attorney General, Coeur d’Alene, ID
STURGELL, JAY QUEALY is 1st District of Idaho Court Assistance Officer, Coeur d’Alene, ID
SZOTT, PAUL JAMES is a Kootenai County Deputy Public Defender, Coeur d’Alene, ID
THIE, BRIAN DEAN is an Attorney with Magyar Rauch & Thie Law Firm, Moscow, ID
TRUSCOTT, DANIEL M. is a Private Practice Attorney, Boise, ID
VAN VALIN, TIMOTHY LOWELL is a Rathdrum City Prosecutor, Rathdrum, ID
WALL, KACEY L. is a Private Practice Attorney, Coeur d’Alene, ID

OpenCdA linked to the selection process in our May 29, 2014, post entitled Selecting a New Magistrate Judge.

We Shouldn’t Be Surprised…

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 12:33 pm

WrongWayThe conduct by Coeur d’Alene police officers that led to the Barnhouse federal lawsuit against the police and the Arfee killing by the police shouldn’t really surprise us.

When police departments seek to waive relevant entrance, retention,  training, and integrity standards, it is inevitable that some unsuitable applicants will be hired and retained.  And when those requests for waivers are rather routinely granted by the state’s law enforcement certification agency, it should not surprise readers to know that cities and counties are more than happy to pump out the waiver requests if it will enable them to reduce hiring and retention costs.

It happens in Idaho.  (more…)

September 12, 2014


Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 9:00 am


In its September 12 article headlined Artist defends rainbow, the Coeur d’Alene Press reports that artist Howard Meehan has agreed to work with the City to “enhance” his art piece titled Under the Rainbow.

Our OpenCdA post on June 25, 2014 titled Remember This? outlined several of the issues prompting today’s Press skewspaper article.  One of the most tasteless and offensive comments we reported came from now-Arts Commission Chairman Jennifer Riggs Drake. As the minutes of the June 17, 2014 meeting of the Arts Commission recount, “Commissioner Drake said that she thinks that a lot of people agree that the arch is under-performing and that putting the [McEuen] logo on it doesn’t take care of that issue.” (more…)

September 10, 2014

Federal Lawsuit Names CdA Police Officers

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 8:58 am

Investigations-FactsThis morning’s Coeur d’Alene Press reports (see article headlined Suit alleges excessive force, violation of rights) that Athol resident Mark Barnhouse has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Coeur d’Alene Police Department officers Johann Schmitz, Mark Knapp, Jonathan Hernas, and then Acting Chief Ron Clark.  The suit also seeks the Federal District Court’s permission to amend the complaint to add specifically named defendants as their identities become known to the plaintiff.

The lawsuit was filed on April 1, 2014, and was based on an incident which occurred on February 17, 2013, in the City of Coeur d’Alene.  The PACER case number is 2:14-cv-00129-EJL-REB, captioned Mark R. Barnhouse, Plaintiff, v. Johann Schmitz, individually and in his official capacity as a police officer, Mark Knapp, individually and in his official capacity as a police officer, Jonathan. Hernas, individually and in his official capacity as a police officer, Ron H. Clark, City of Coeur d’Alene, a municipality incorporated in the State of Idaho, and John Doe(s) I-V, Defendants.  The case number link is to the initial complaint.

There are a couple of tantalizing tidbits in the complaint:

Defendant Mark Knapp was also responsible for the training, supervision, and control of defendant Johann Schmitz in the proper use of force.”  So, we wonder, was Mark Knapp a field training officer (FTO) and was Johann Schmitz a trainee at the time of this incident in 2013?

In furtherance of their attempts to justify their unlawful arrest, both Officers Schmitz and Knapp made false statements of fact in their police report…” which were itemized in the complaint.  The complaint then alleges “The Officers then decided to modify and correct their false statements only after reviewing Officer Schmitz’s body camera.”  So Schmitz was wearing a body camera and had evidently activated it.  What about Knapp?  Especially if he was an FTO, his body camera should also have been activated.  Was it?

OpenCdA is happy to see that Mr. Barnhouse engaged legal counsel and brought this action in federal court.

This incident preceded the Arfee killing by a Coeur d’Alene police officer, but there appear to be some common threads between that and the present lawsuit.  It will be interesting to see how the City of Coeur d’Alene and its new police chief handle both cases.

OpenCdA is curious to know if any of the officers involved in Barnhouse and Arfee received their pre-service training in the North Idaho College’s POST certification program rather than at the POST academy in Meridian?

The public will be watching.

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