Today a person in line with me at Starbucks asked why OpenCdA puts up so many posts about corruption and corrupt public officials.
It was a fair question, and I gave her a two-part answer.
Part One: Our local and regional news media report nothing that would help educate their readers and viewer/listeners on that topic.
Part Two: Corruption and the persons who engage in it are often seen as being pillars of the very communities they victimize. Too often, the victims are unable and unwilling to look past the familiar faces, many of them prominent in the communities, and critically examine their behaviors. It’s the behavior, not the reputation of the person, that reveals the corruption or incompetence.
Here is an end-of-year column by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez. It’s headline says it all: 2013: A great year for scandal, incompetence, and corruption. It suggests the variety of costly behaviors that people need to watch out for.
A former Kootenai County Finance Director has been convicted by a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury on 11 of 13 counts relating to public corruption .
On Monday, December 9, 2013, Angela Spaccia was convicted on charges including misappropriation of public funds, conflict of interest, and secretion [sic] of the official record. Spaccia committed the offenses while employed from July 2003 until October 2010 as the assistant to the Chief Administrative Officer of Bell, California.
During Spaccia’s trial it was learned that she had served from 1994 until June 1998 as the Associate Director of the YWCA in Coeur d’Alene. From June 15, 1998, until June 16, 2000, she served as the Finance Director for Kootenai County, Idaho, in the Auditor’s Office under then Kootenai County Clerk Dan English. At the time she was known by her married name, Angela Sheffield. In 2000 she divorced her husband, Thomas Allen Sheffield, and returned to southern California with her son. (more…)
The corruption scandal involving the city of Bell, California, Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo and his chief deputy, Angela Spaccia, gets dirtier and dirtier.
During Friday’s testimony, Deputy District Attorney Sean Hassett forced Spaccia to acknowledge that a 2006 resolution approved by the City Council had been illegally altered (switched) so the wording they signed was different from the wording of the resolution in their council packets. What was in the Council packet and what the Council believed they were signing was, in fact, different from what they actually did sign. Someone on the City staff, someone obviously trusted by the Council members, had altered the documents, public records.
The result was that the Council gave Rizzo more power and authority than had been intended. It allowed Rizzo to approve lucrative contracts with City employees without Council approval.
Fortunately, nothing like that could ever happen in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Our Council diligently reads every document in its packet. They compare word-for-word what their packet contains with what our City Clerk puts in front of them. Our City Finance Director and City Attorney do the same. Everyone’s paying attention, so we’re safe, right? Two words: Sheryl Carroll.
The revelations just never end in the corruption trial of former Bell, California, Deputy City Administrator Angela Spaccia.
This LA Times article explains how Rizzo and Spaccia had a Wells Fargo & Co. pension expert draw up a really, really, really, really generous and very personalized pension plan — just for them.
The Times article is so clearly written that no explanation is necessary.
Wow! Just wow!
Today's Los Angeles Times reporting about the public corruption trial of Bell, California's former Deputy City Administrator explains how DCA Spaccia and City Administrator Rizzo allegedly inflated their own salaries.
This is the kind of detailed, how-it-was done news reporting that educates voters and helps make it more difficult for corrupt public officials. One of the best courtroom exchanges reported in today's Times story could have applied here in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho:
[Bell's former Financial Officer Lourdes] Garcia said she assumed the city attorney had reviewed the council resolution that contained the vacation increases and that Rizzo told staff members that he would discuss changes with council members.
“Did you assume the City Council was voting on things they never read?” Garcia was asked by Spaccia’s attorney, Harland Braun.
“Probably,” she said.
That’s the official reason given in the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s report for the Internal Revenue Service’s use of “inappropriate criteria” for evaluating applications for certain tax exemptions.
But instead of focusing on what’s in the report and then accepting it as the end-all-and-be-all, look at what’s not there. (more…)
This morning’s Coeur d’Alene Press published a letter to the editor by School District 271 Trustee Tom Hamilton. Hamilton’s letter was a response to a My Turn opinion column written by Adam Graves published in Saturday’s Coeur d’Alene Press.
In his opinion column, Graves criticized School District 271 trustees for not sending even one trustee to a fund-raising auction for one of the local schools.
In his response to Graves, Hamilton observes, “Knowing that formal invitations (likely printed by your firm) were mailed to several District Administrators, the board [SD 271 Board of Trustees] is left to assume that your failure to extend the same invitation to the trustees could only be an act of omission, deliberate or otherwise. Could it be that an opportunity to slander the board was your intent all along?”
Hamilton reasonably asks if Graves was trying to manufacture a situation that would result in an opportunity for them to attack elected officials. This scheme has been tried before here in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. (more…)
If you believe Coeur d’Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem, Coeur d’Alene City Administrator Wendy Gabriel, Deputy Finance Director Vonnie Jenson [sic], and others cited in US Attorney Wendy Jo Olson’s Response to Objection to Impact Statements filed for the March 4, 2013, sentencing hearing of convicted former City employee Sheryl Carroll, the aforementioned Mayor, Administrator, and Deputy Finance Director were all victims themselves of Carroll’s larcenous cleverness.
Quoting character Al Borland, comedian Tim Allen’s reserved and always skeptical straight man in the 90′s television series Home Improvement, “I don’t think so, Tim.” (more…)
Read this Legal Announcement from today’s local skewspaper. Pay particular attention to the highlighted portion of the Announcement. Now, compare the wording of that Legal Announcement with the wording of this particular item in the online agenda for the March 5 Council meeting. If that agenda item is for the Legal Announcement item, and it’s certainly not clear that it is, then it sounds to me as if the decision to approve the Supplemental Ordinance has already been made!
If you had only read the agenda item and had not read the Legal Announcement, would you associate the agenda item with the content of the Legal Announcement? I don’t know if they are associated or not. If they are not associated, then the $12,149,284 item from the Legal Announcement is not even on the Tuesday meeting agenda!
ADDENDUM AT 2:19 p.m. on Friday, March 1, 2013: The City has just posted online this Agenda Addendum and this Council Packet Addendum addressing the deficiencies noted in my earlier post.
Describing the diligent, business-like approach taken by the School District 271 Board of Trustees in selling some unneeded land to the City, Couer d’Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem (shown left) was quoted in this morning’s Coeur d’Alene Press article as saying, “I’m saddened it came to this. In all good faith, we gave [a portion of Person Field] to the district.”
According to the Press article, “…the city gave the school district its half of Person Field in a ‘good faith’ deal roughly 20 years ago so the school district could receive land near Lake City High School while keeping enough property near Lakes Middle School to keep accreditation. Now, the city said, it will be more diligent in future deals, instead of counting on ‘good faith’ ones to pay dividends in the future.” (more…)