OpenCDA

August 19, 2015

Berns Doesn’t Act Alone!

Berns for OpenCdaIn this morning’s editorial titled ignite cda:  Transparent as black tape,  the Coeur d’Alene Press skews paper lamented that it has yet again watched LCDC Schlockmeister Tony Berns reprise the role of the Governor in the musical Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

But Tony Berns does not act alone.  He has been empowered to be arrogant, evasive, and deceptive by the willful or ignorant actions or inactions of past and present members of the LCDC Board of Commissioners.  Here are the current Commissioners.

Berns’ sidestep dance experienced by the Press and recounted in today’s editorial sounds very similar to his response to us as detailed in our May 2007 Whitecaps blog post titled Official Ignorance.

It’s not the first time Berns has pulled the wool over the Press’s eyes.  In December 2006 Berns booted Press reporter Tom Greene from an LCDC Board meeting being held at one of the LCDC Commissioners’ homes.  Berns told Greene he had to leave the meeting because the LCDC was going into executive session.  It wasn’t.  Although the Press reported the deception in articles on December 21, 22, and 23,  an honest and competent editor and publisher would have been screaming for Berns’ head and the resignation in shame of every LCDC Commissioner who went along with it.  Patrick and Thompson didn’t scream; they whimpered.

The LCDC Board of Commissioners (or ignite cda Board of Commissioners if you prefer) have the authority to remove Berns. In our October 11, 2011, OpenCdA post titled Berns Must Go (And He Shouldn’t Go Alone)!, we called for Berns and some Commissioners to leave.  Of course, they didn’t.

In part because of the persistence of some Coeur d’Alene community watchdogs who became elected officials, notably Senator Mary Souza, Councilman Dan Gookin, and Representative Kathy Sims, the antics of Tony Berns and the inattentive cast of clowns at the LCDC/ignite cda have come to the attention of other officials in the state.  What some state officials in the past have dismissed as “just a Coeur d’Alene problem” is now being recognized as symptomatic of larger statewide issues.  In its 2015 session, the Legislature approved the formation of the Urban Renewal Interim Committee, its charge being “To undertake and complete a study of urban renewal plans and issues.”

Regardless of what the Legislature’s Urban Renewal Interim Committee recommends, we hope that Tony Berns and several Commissioners of the LCDC/ignite cda will soon be gone.  They are “underperforming“.

February 4, 2015

Oh, Please!

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 3:19 pm

bullshitIf you haven’t read the Idaho Statesman article headlined 2014 concealed weapons law costs Idaho colleges $3.7 million, please take a few minutes and read it.  The article was written by Bill Dentzer and appeared online on February 3.

If the article can be believed, when the Idaho Legislature passed Senate Bill 1254 in the 2014 session, the presidents of the five schools mentioned in the article decided it was a license for them to go on a spending spree to upgrade their campus security programs.

Let’s be very clear:  The law did not prescribe upgraded security.  What these five college presidents did, they did on their own volition (but with your money).  Why? (more…)

January 21, 2015

You’re Fired!

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 7:54 am

embezzlementOpenCdA’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.

January 10, 2015

“They Just Didn’t Do It”

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 4:37 pm

casewatchOpenCdA 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.”
(more…)

November 21, 2014

Public Record Denied (If It Ever Existed)

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , , — Bill @ 8:06 am

Date:On Wednesday, November 5, 2014, at 9:00 A.M., OpenCdA hand-delivered an Idaho Public Records Law request to the Kootenai County Board of County Commissioners office.  The cover sheet is shown left, and here is the detailed request attached to it.

Our request for routinely kept records required by law has been presumptively denied.

To simply outline the underlying issue prompting our request:   Kootenai County Commissioners Green and Tondee had stated publicly that their decision to fire Coeur d’Alene Airport (COE) Manager Greg Delavan on or about October 24, 2014, had been made in an executive session during a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.  Commissioner Nelson had stated she was aware of the meeting but had not taken part in it.  Our OpenCdA post entitled Wrong Answer, Commissioner Green on November 4 explained why we believed the Commissioners’ firing of Delavan on or about October 24 violated the Idaho Open Meeting Law.  Our November 5 public record request sought the statutorily-required agendas and meeting minutes which would either confirm or refute the truthfulness of the Commissioners’ assertions and the legality of the meeting(s) in which the decision was made to fire Delavan on or about October 24.

On November 7 OpenCdA received this email from Kootenai County Commissioners Administrative Assistant Nancy A. Jones.

The Idaho Public Records Law provides that employees of a public agency are allowed to determine that a longer period of time is needed to locate or retrieve information, but the agency is still required to grant or deny the request in whole or in part withing 10 working days following the request (see I.C. § 9-339(1)).

The “10 working days” period for our November 5 public records request expired on Thursday, November 20, 2014 (we did not count November 5 or Veteran’s Day, November 11, in our day count) .  We have received no further information from the Commissioners after Ms. Jones’  November 7 email. Thus, our request for some records (agendas, minutes) which are or should be routinely kept by the Kootenai County Board of County Commissioners has been presumptively denied (see I.C. § 9-339(2)). 

The sole remedy provided to us by law (see I.C. § 9-343(1)) “…is to institute proceedings in the district court of the county where the records or some part thereof are located, to compel the public agency or independent public body corporate and politic to make the information available for public inspection in accordance with the provisions of sections 9-337 through 9-348, Idaho Code.”

A source whom we believe to be reporting accurately has told us the records we seek cannot be located because they do not exist.  If that is accurate, then pursuing them with a costly court action would be pointless.  It would also be pointless, because as OpenCdA has reported before, the 2009 session of the Idaho Legislature gutted the protections afforded citizens by the Idaho Open Meeting Law.

At the behest of the Idaho Attorney General’s Office and with the support and participation of various lobbying organizations and news media, many of Idaho’s 2009 legislators knowingly sought to deprive Idaho’s citizens of the ability to learn how their elected and appointed officials conduct public business behind closed doors.  Again, follow this link and notice who in the Senate and House voted “aye” in favor of hiding unlawful government actions from the public view and who voted “nay” against it.

The “cure” embedded in the revised Idaho Open Meeting Law should cause citizens to unofficially refer to the Idaho Open Meeting Law as the “Catch Me If You Can” Public Officials Protection Act of 2009.

November 9, 2014

Observations On a Near-Lynching

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 9:11 am

COEOpenCdA attended the November 4 meeting of the Kootenai County Board of Commissoners (BOCC) and the Airport Advisory Board (AAB).  The agenda indicates that the official business was to be limited to a discussion of the hiring process to replace the dismissed Greg Delavan as the Airport Director for Coeur d’Alene airport (COE).

It soon became apparent that its underlying intent of many participants was to publicly and politically lynch Commissioners Green and Tondee for their clearly illegal action to fire Delavan.

As we reported in our November 4 early morning OpenCdA post entitled Wrong Answer, Commissioner Green, Commissioners Green and Tondee agreed to fire Delavan while seemingly violating just about every part of the Idaho Open Meeting Law except the white spaces.

After our attendance at this near-lynching, OpenCdA has a few meaningless opinions about what we saw.  (more…)

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

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

“Underperforming”

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

ANTHONY-DRAKE

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 9, 2014

Arfee Observations

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , , — Bill @ 8:24 am

Investigations-FactsOn the morning of Friday, September 5, 2014, the City of Coeur d’Alene posted some of the documents from the police department’s report on the shooting of Arfee, a black Labrador mix, by a Coeur d’Alene police officer on July 9.  The online compilation was captioned Craig Jones Case Documents.  For simplicity, we’ll simply refer to that compilation as “the Arfee report.”

Starting on July 11, OpenCdA has put up several posts about the shooting death of Arfee by the Coeur d’Alene Police Department officer.   In general, the Arfee report had nothing to significantly change the opinions we expressed in those posts.

We do have a few observations now that we’ve been able to read the Arfee report.  (more…)

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