OpenCDA

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?

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…)

August 31, 2014

Judicial Confirmation Petition Denied

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 8:14 am

WrongWaySaturday morning’s Coeur d’Alene Press skewspaper reported that District Court Judge John Stegner has denied Kootenai County’s petition for judicial confirmation to fund the lease of a privately-owned jail.  The article is headlined  Judge:  Jail Plan Unconstitutional.

OpenCdA’s post dated June 15, 2014 entitled Judicial Confirmation – Bypassing Voters discussed Idaho’s judicial confirmation statute and some of its application in this particular issue, the expansion of the Kootenai County Jail.

We can not comment specifically on Judge Stegner’s decision, because we have not yet obtained and studied his written decision and order.  His written and filed decision and order will necessarily be a detailed explanation of the legal basis for his decision.    It would help guide both the petitioner and the respondents on any future legal actions.

However, we will offer our opinion on some of the information included in this morning’s Press article.  (more…)

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…)

August 15, 2014

In Dribs and Drabs…

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 10:22 am

Investigations-FactsAnd from today’s Coeur d’Alene Press story headlined No recording of Arfee shooting, we learn that the Coeur d’Alene police officer who shot and killed Arfee the dog inside a lawfully parked van on July 9 had not activated his body-worn camera when he handled a suspicious vehicle call in downtown Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

The skewspaper article said, “Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Christie Wood confirmed that the camera worn by the officer was not recording at the time. […] ‘I really can’t (comment) because that would go right to the heart of the personnel matter,’ Wood said.”

So contrary to the earlier and repeated assurances from Mayor Steve Widmyer and acting Police Chief Ron Clark that the results of the investigation would be released only after review by the City and by an impartial third party, we now have the police department’s public information officer giving out information from inside the investigation. (more…)

August 1, 2014

Wait for the Report — Please

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 9:04 am

Investigations-FactsAgain today the Coeur d’Alene Press skewspaper has run letters to its editor from citizens who believe the Coeur d’Alene police officer who shot Arfee the dog on July 9 should be disarmed.

OpenCdA has put up several posts about the incident.

As we’ve said before, we believe it is imperative that the officer not be prematurely judged.   That is more than just trying to be fair to the officer.   Shooting and killing Arfee the dog has certainly pointed out some very serious issues that the Police Department should be studying and addressing. (more…)

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