OpenCDA

April 2, 2016

Change in CdA Council Meeting Time?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 7:35 am

clockat515Citizens who pay attention to what the Coeur d’Alene City Council does will want to look carefully at the online agenda for the council meeting on April 5.  This agenda was retrieved at 7 AM on Saturday, April 2.

First, note the time-date line above agenda item ‘A’ shows that the meeting begins at 5:15 PM, not the usual 6 PM.

Second, note that agenda item ‘A’ and agenda item ‘M’ show the Council in Executive Session.  That is not a typographical error; the Council intends to hold two Executive Sessions during this meeting.    However, if the Agenda is followed as published, it will create a violation of Idaho’s Open Meetings Law.

The Open Meetings Law does not forbid multiple executive sessions in the same public meeting.  The Council is allowed to have more than one Executive Session as long as each is properly noticed on the council meeting agenda and convened only after passage of the statutorily required motion.

But the agenda published online and linked above shows that the first item of business at 5:15 p.m. will be conducted in Executive Session.  The next item of business after that would convene the public City Council meeting.  That would violate Idaho’s Open Meetings Law.

The Open Meetings Law absolutely requires that before going into Executive Session, the Council must first convene a properly announced public meeting, then during that meeting offer and pass a motion to go into Executive Session.  The Law forbids using an Executive Session “… for the purpose of taking any final action or making any final decision.”  Because the Executive Session motion results in a final action or final decision, it must be passed and memorialized in the minutes of the already-convened public meeting.

If Coeur d’Alene’s Mayor, City Council, City Administrator, City Clerk, and City Attorney care about following the Open Meetings Law, they need to amend the agenda as provided by the Law.  The agenda needs to be formally amended to simply reverse the position of agenda items ‘A’ and ‘B’.  The Tuesday, April 5, 2015, Coeur d’Alene City Council meeting needs to be convened in open session before the motion to go into Executive Session can be offered and passed.

March 23, 2016

Even Later to the Party …

Filed under: General — Tags: , , , — Bill @ 12:15 pm

EDITBOARDOur post entitled Late to the Party on October 27, 2015, pointed out that even back then, Coeur d’Alene Press Publisher Jim Thompson (left in photo) and Editor Mike Patrick were waaaaay late to the urban renewal agency examination party.

Well, again today Frick and Frack demonstrated their remarkable ability to editorialize in arrears. This morning’s editorial was headlined You can’t blame ’em for asking.

The editorial finally and we suspect begrudgingly acknowledged that for years Coeur d’Alene’s urban renewal agency, ignite cda (née Lake City Development Corporation), had been engaging in “… the practice of lining friendly pockets under the guise of resurrecting worn-down parts of town.”

Honest and diligent citizens like Mary Souza, Dan Gookin, Kathy Sims, Sharon Culbreth, Frank Orzell, and others have been delivering the evidence of that practice for years.    The Press chose not to investigate and then report it as news.

But today’s editorial contained a real whopper. (more…)

November 6, 2015

Fraudulent Steering

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 8:50 am

barbara-byrd-bennett copy“Fraudulent steering” has nothing to do with automobile recalls.

It has everything to do with a dishonest Chicago Public Schools (CPS) official, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who was the putative decision-maker in deciding which two education consulting companies would get a $23 million no-bid contract to provide consulting services to CPS.

One of Babs’ criteria for fraudulently steering the contract to the companies was evidently how much they would be willing to kick back to her in return.   The kickback netted her a cool $2.3 million.

And now the FBI is looking closely at what Babs did as the Chief Accountability Officer in the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) before she went CPS.  The allegation filed in federal court is that she fraudulently steered a DPS textbook contract worth $40 million to a publishing house, Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, where she had formerly worked.

For an interesting take on Babs’ bribery, see the article headlined Blaming Byrd-Bennett won’t end CPS corruption in The Depaulia, the student newspaper of DePaul University.

Contracts do get steered to preferred vendors and suppliers.  A red flag the size of a large empty hole in the ground  should start waving when a contract is worth a lot of money and is awarded to a sole-source without honest competitive bidding.   It’s a form of bid-rigging.

Fortunately, it only happens in Chicago or Detroit or Atlanta or …  But it could never happen in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

September 24, 2015

Will Port of Hope Move to Post Falls?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 7:20 am

portofhomeOpenCdA has received word that northern Idaho’s Port of Hope, Inc., currently in Coeur d’Alene, has applied for a special use permit to establish a federal residential re-entry center in Post Falls.  We believe this will result in the closure of the Coeur d’Alene facility which has been in operation since 1998.

OpenCdA fully understands the Port of Hope’s apparent desire to leave Coeur d’Alene.  The shameful efforts by members of the City of Coeur d’Alene Planning Commission with help from employees of School District 271 to run Port of Hope out of town in 2013 were documented in this series of OpenCdA posts.   Thankfully, the Coeur d’Alene City Council resoundingly rejected those efforts in its meeting on October 1, 2013.

We hope that the members of the Post Falls Planning & Zoning Commission will look at our posts linked above.   These posts revealed how hysteria and deception can drive a completely unsupported decision in a planning commission hearing.  Our hope is that however the Post Falls Planning & Zoning Commission rules on Port of Hope’s application, the Commissioners’ votes will be based entirely on their objective evaluation of the relevant evidence presented during the hearing.

September 13, 2015

Otter’s Veto: Intentionally Illegal?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 7:51 pm

gambling-games1For the reasons we’ve beaten to death in our earlier posts concerning historic horse racing machines in Idaho, OpenCdA agreed with Governor Otter’s decision to veto S 1011 passed during the 2015 legislative session.  That bill repealed Idaho Code § 54-2512A.  His decision to veto the repeal effort was the right one.

However, we also agree with the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision released September 10, 2015, to overturn Otter’s veto.  Otter bungled the veto.  It is impossible for us to believe that an honest, competent, and experienced governor could accidentally or even carelessly mess up the state’s clearly defined veto process.

To OpenCdA it looks as if Governor Clement L. Otter intended for his veto to be unable to withstand the inevitable and ultimately successful legal challenge that was mounted against it. (more…)

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.

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