August 28, 2014

Verdun d’Alene?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 2:56 pm

slippery slopeOpenCdA has been following the Canadian news media’s reporting of the Quebec corruption scandal and its investigation by the Charbonneau Commission.

The focus of the Charbonneau Commission’s investigation is Quebec’s “…deeply-rooted system of kickbacks, bribes and illegal fundraising that link the province’s construction industry to politicians and civil servants.”  We touched on that in our June 22, 2013, post entitled “Corruption becomes a kind of cancer”.

In its online story on August 26, 2014, headlined Bending of rules cost Verdun taxpayers $1.5 million in lost revenue, mayor says, the Gazette [] provides an ultra-simple explanation of how officials in Montreal’s borough of Verdun managed to make sure their cronies enriched themselves at the expense of Verdun’s citizens.  Verdun has a population of about 66,000.

Fortunately, that kind of cronyism and favoritism never happens here in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

August 25, 2014

Business As Usual

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 6:52 pm

stink-o-meter copyWe are disappointed that Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer seems to be following the lead set by his predecessor Sandi Bloem.

Bloem liked to pack unelected committees and commissions with cronies and headnodders who would apply the rubber-stamp of approval to almost any big-dollar deal without considering if it was in the best interests of the City’s reputation or its people.

Thursday’s Coeur d’Alene Press “news article”  titled Four corners report reveals that Widmyer is showing he’s no different.  In fact, he likes to use some of the same cronies and headnodders.  Of the nine advisory committee members named in the “news article,” eight have exceedingly well-developed headnodder muscles toned by years of subservience.  To us, only the BLM realty specialist might appear to be considered objectively independent. (more…)

April 15, 2014

Just Down the Street…

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 12:19 pm

CudahyJust down the street (that would be Atlantic Avenue) from scandal-ridden Bell, California, is the city of Cudahy (pronounced “cudda’-hee” or “cudda’-hay”).  In fact Bell is Cudahy’s next-door neighbor to the north.  It appears that Cudahy and Bell share more than just a border.

In an online story dated April 15, 2014, and headlined State accuses small city Cudahy of large spending irregularities,  Los Angeles Times reporters Jeff Gottlieb and Stevel Marble reveal that California State Controller John Chiang today released the state’s City of Cudahy – Review Report – Administrative and Internal Accounting Controls for the period July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2012.  (Note:  Times reporter Gottlieb updated this story and added details in a later one headlined Audit faults Cudahy as government in chaos.)

The essence of the state’s Review Report can be summed up in the first sentence of the Conclusions section:  “We found the City of Cudahy’s administrative and internal accounting control deficiencies to be serious and pervasive.  As a result, the potential for fraud, waste, and abuse is very high.” (more…)

January 9, 2014

Why So Many Corruption Posts?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 4:19 pm

corruptionToday 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.

December 11, 2013

Former Kootenai County Finance Director Convicted in CA: Corruption

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 3:39 pm

SpacciaBookingPhotoA 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…)

November 16, 2013

The Bell Corruption Scandal: Altered Official Documents

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 7:03 am

pile-of-cashThe 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.

October 26, 2013

Tutorial: How to Inflate Your City Retirement

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 9:14 am

pile-of-cashThe 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!

Tutorial: How to Inflate Your City Salary

Filed under: General — Tags: , — Bill @ 9:02 am


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.

May 17, 2013

Not Reassured — Not Even Close

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 6:59 am


“Ineffective management.”

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…)

April 3, 2013

Not the First Time…

Kennedy4This 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…)

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