OpenCDA

September 10, 2016

Exceptional Police Work

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 12:13 pm

irvine-pd-patchAt a time when citizens throughout the United States are being propagandized by various media including the skews media to ridicule and deride law enforcement officers, it was not only refreshing but also inspiring to see the Los Angeles Times newspaper run its six-part series entitled ‘FRAMED – She was the PTA mom everybody knew.  Who would want to harm her?

The series highlights the exceptional and insightful work of the Irvine, California, Police Department.  It is worth noting that the Irvine officer who was first assigned the call was an experienced police officer, not a rookie.  The article rightly raises the question:  Would the outcome of this case have been different if a less experienced and less patient patrol officer had been the first to respond?

The series was written by LA Times staff writer Christopher Goffard.  Goffard’s bio states, “He shared in the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for the paper’s Bell coverage …”  Attentive readers may recall the Kootenai County connection to the Bell scandal which the LA Times reported and for which it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

The entire six-part series can easily be read in half an hour.  It’s worth the time.

August 2, 2016

Read and Decide for Yourself

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 11:46 am

KC Int Audit Cover for OCdA PostOn July 26, 2016, our local skews paper, the Coeur d’Alene Press, published an article headlined ‘Audit of fair raises red flags.’   The article is available online for those who care to read it.

Then two days later on July 28, the Press published the Kootenai County Fair board’s response in an article headlined ‘Kootenai County Fair board responds to audit concerns.’  That article was not published online.

As a service to readers, OpenCdA is linking to the complete Kootenai County Internal Audit – Final Report – North Idaho Fair Financial Processes – June & July, 2016.  It is not some tedious tome.  It is readable and equally important, understandable by those of us with no accounting background.  Counting the one-page executive summary and the one-page table of contents, it is 24 pages.

The County’s audit report is well-organized and succinct.  Each  condition the audit team observed is reported.  The remedial recommendations are also reported.  And finally, the responses of the Fair Board accompany each condition and set of recommendations.

In short, by reading the Internal Audit Final Report, readers will have a far more complete understanding of why in late May 2016 the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners ‘… directed the Clerk’s internal audit team to review the Fair’s financial practices as soon as possible.’  It is likely readers will also have a much better understanding of why the Commissioners recommended the addition of two Fair Board members who have ‘deeper financial expertise’ that the existing Fair Board members.

We also suggest that readers read two sets of meeting minutes.  The first is captioned ‘Minutes of Meeting – Fairgrounds – April 19, 2016, 3:00 p.m.‘  The second is captioned ‘Minutes of Meeting – Internal Audit Committee, May 31, 2016, 11:00 a.m.‘   Both sets of minutes are relevant to the Audit Report, but equally important, they provide voters with some insight into the official conduct of elected County officials.

July 29, 2016

Setting a Good Example

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 3:41 pm

Questions copy copyOur July 23, 2016, post entitled Unanswered Questions or Unquestioned Answers? properly suggested that one of Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh’s go-to conflict attorneys, Boundary County Prosecutor Jack Douglas, had apparently decided that the public didn’t need to know any more about the drowning death of Coeur d’Alene High School student Reginald J. Nault.

Now, contrast the Douglas-McHugh information drought with the good example of openness by Attorney General Lawrence Wasden in his release and online publication of  the decision letter sent Friday to the Adams County Prosecutor and attorneys for the Yantis family. The public can view the letter and investigative file on the Attorney General’s website (ADDENDUM on 07-30-2016:  For those who prefer not to read, see two of the video summaries in today’s Idaho Statesman.  AG Wasden   Sheriff Zollman)

Most people that followed the investigation into death of Council, Idaho, rancher Jack Yantis at the hands of Adams County Deputy Sheriffs also know that the Yantis family has filed a civil damage claim against the County.  AG Wasden is clearly aware of that.

AG Wasden was also aware of the keen and continuing interest in the investigation by the Yantis family and neighbors in Council.  Wasden could have stonewalled them for information by making them submit an Idaho Public Records Law request.  He could also have used the “make ’em pay dearly” legislatively-approved practice of charging applicants for the time and above-the-page-limit copies to see public information.     He did neither.

AG Wasden’s decision letter made it very clear that his office’s charge “… was to review this matter for the sole purpose of determining whether criminal charges should be filed against the two Adams County Sheriff’s Office employees involved in the shooting of Jack Yantis.”

AG Wasden’s letter then went on to say, “The OAG’s duty in conducting that review did not include determining whether any person or entity should be held liable in a civil action…”  In other words once the criminal charging decision had been made by AG Wasden, his office had no obligation to keep the investigative results quiet just to protect Adams County or any individuals from civil liability.  AG Wasden was free to post the investigative information (with certain lawful and required redactions) for all to see.  To his credit, that’s exactly what he did.

OpenCdA thinks Boundary County Prosecuting Attorney Jack Douglas ought to do exactly the same thing with the investigative material developed during the Reginald Nault death investigation.   We also think our local and regional skews papers ought to join with OpenCdA in this suggestion.  But we won’t hold our breath for any of this to happen.  The already-lumpy Kootenai County rug is likely to get lumpier.

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“.

April 27, 2015

April 25 Awards

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 8:17 am

awardsApril 25, 2015, should possibly be designated as “Idaho Journalism Awards Day.”  There were two equally meaningful and important sets of awards given out then.

The first was the Idaho Press Club Best of 2014 Annual Awards, and the second was the Max Dalton Open Government Award. (more…)

February 22, 2015

“… you are commanded to provide to the Office of Attorney General…”

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 8:56 am

slippery slopeOpenCdA’s post on February 20, 2015, entitled Now Just a Minute was based on the proposal attributed to Kootenai County Clerk Jim Brannon but considered by other county elected officials including Commissioners, the Prosecutor, and the Sheriff.   As reported in Friday’s Coeur d’Alene Press, Brannon suggested hiring a county public information officer to handle both public records requests and the dissemination of public information.

OpenCdA thinks this is a bad idea.   The suggestion is a convenient way to add another filter, a gatekeeper, between public records and citizens’ access to them.  It is appalling that our elected public officials do not distinguish between public records which speak for themselves and public information which uses a spokesflack to select and deliver the County’s fluff du jour in its most favorable light.

We find this suggestion particularly galling because it is appears to be directed at shutting down legitimate inquiries primarily from one person:  Kootenai County government watchdog Frank Davis.

That elected officials in Kootenai County believe a new position for one of their hand-picked cronies needs to be created just to field legitimate inquiries from one or even a few people suggests something else to us:  The community watchdogs like Frank Davis are on the right track, and they are making some past and present elected officials (and those locally who control them)  very nervous about what the Idaho Attorney General may uncover.  (more…)

January 3, 2015

Where’s the Missing Information?

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

InformationNotProvidedIn today’s Coeur d’Alene Press skews paper article headlined Kootenai County looks to 2015, writer David Cole included comments from County Commissioner-elect David Stewart.

Some of Stewart’s comments suggested the pay for newly-hired and relatively inexperienced Kootenai County Deputy Sheriffs needs to be raised to keep the deputies from leaving for departments that pay more.

The article quoted Stewart as saying, “Currently there are nine sheriff patrol deputy openings, due to them leaving Kootenai County for higher pay.”  That line screams for information which should have been included in the article. (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.

October 22, 2014

Good Grief, Mike Patrick

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 8:22 am

Investigations-FactsIt’s no secret that OpenCdA has complete disdain for the Coeur d’Alene Press.   That’s why we regularly refer to it as a skewspaper.  A newspaper reports facts; the Press — not so much.

The latest example of the Press’s indifference to factual reporting can be found in today’s story headlined Arfee owner sues city over dog’s death.  The article by Keith Cousins states, “A Washington-based attorney for Craig Jones, owner of the dog shot and killed by Officer Dave Kelley, has filed a lawsuit seeking at least $350,000 from the city of Coeur d’Alene.

Really?  In which court has this “lawsuit” been filed?

We ask, because in contrast to the Press’s “close enough for Coeur d’Alene” version of facts, The Spokesman-Review is reporting in its story headlined Owner files $350,000 claim in police shooting of dog Arfee that Arfee’s owner Craig Jones has filed a claim, not a lawsuit.  There is a difference.  Here is a copy of the Notice of Claim filed with the City.  If the City denies or otherwise disputes Mr. Jones’ claim and if they cannot reach an agreeable settlement, then a lawsuit may be filed.

The Spokesman-Review article reported that if and when a lawsuit is filed against the City, it will likely be in federal court.  A check of PACER reveals no federal lawsuit filing by Mr. Jones, but that would be a smart move by Mr. Jones.  Our guess, however, is that the City and Mr. Jones will reach a claim settlement acceptable to both.  It will be fascinating to see if and how the Coeur d’Alene Press reports it.

October 12, 2014

Press Pads Own Story Pseudonymously

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 3:34 pm

jmowreader1Take a look at the user comment area attached to today’s Press article headlined Teen worker dies in accident at Hauser corn maze.   The screen capture above is one of the “user comments”.

Is it appropriate for a Press staff member to post pseudonymously on one of the skewspaper’s own news articles?

It immediately raises very reasonable questions:  How many other “users” are also Press staff members who comment pseudonymously to push the skewspaper’s agenda on its own news stories?   If a Press staff member wants to answer a “user” comment or clarify something in a news story, why not use his or her true name above the staff identifier?  How accepted is this practice among our region’s news media who allow online users to post comments on news stories?

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