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…)

February 3, 2015

How Investigations Get Started

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 8:29 am

Bribery-BCA-2011Occasionally a television news story provides the station’s watchers, listeners, and online readers with a concise but fairly complete picture of how a city councilman’s official actions can prompt a federal criminal investigation.  That was the case when Hampton Roads, Virginia, television station WVEC ran its February 2, 2015, news story entitled FBI investigating Beach councilman’s vote on Cavalier project.

Not counting the attachment to the federal grand jury subpoena detailing the records which the city of Virginia Beach, Virgina, Custodian of Records is required to bring before the grand jury, the news story is only about 575 words.

WVEC’s news story suggests someone credibly alleged that Virginia Beach Councilman John Uhrin may have accepted a bribe or gratuity in return for his favorable vote on a project providing a developer millions of dollars in taxpayer incentives to renovate a hotel and allow a permit for a luxury housing community.  It appears that the bribe or gratuity alleged took the form of Uhrin’s wife being hired to market the homes in the project in return for Councilman Uhrin’s favorable vote.  (Generally, a bribe is a payoff for future official action, whereas a gratuity is a payoff for a prior official action.)

Note that at this point, the FBI is only conducting an investigation.  The function of the investigation is to gather verifiable, relevant facts which would allow the federal grand jury to decide if there is sufficient admissible evidence to warrant indicting anyone with a crime.

January 28, 2015

Don’t Ask Questions!!

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 3:18 pm

RedFlagSuppose you’re an honest and diligent elected or appointed official in northern Idaho.

Or maybe you’re a planning commissioner or a city councilman in Coeur d’Alene.  Or maybe you’re a newly-elected county clerk with a competent and honest chief deputy.  Or maybe you’re a trustee in the local school district or community college.  Or maybe you’re a city councilman in Athol.

Or maybe you’re among the many honest citizens who have seen and experienced dishonesty, deception, and signs of criminal exploitation among a distressing number of elected and appointed officials so you have turned to your local or county or state government and tried to report what you have observed.

If you’re one of the people among the aforementioned groups who want responsive, honest government, you all have one thing in common:  You’ve very likely been told in one way or another to sit down, shut up, and don’t ask questions.  “It’s not your responsibility.”  Except you know it is. (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 6, 2015

Corrupt Governor Sentenced to Prison

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 3:54 pm

mcdonnellFormer Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell was sentenced to two years in federal prison today after being convicted by a jury on one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right.  Those are public corruption charges which include bribery.

McDonnell isn’t the first prominent politician to be sent to prison for corruption in recent history.  

The crimes McDonnell committed are fairly well explained in the press release put out by Dana Boente, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

A substantial part of McDonnell’s defense for his actions was based on his erroneous and arrogant belief that accepting bribes and gratuities in return for promoting a Virginia business is acceptable because it is “politics as usual.”

Commenting on McDonnell’s corruption, Assistant Attorney General (Criminal Division) Leslie Caldwell said, “Robert McDonnell corrupted the most powerful office in Virginia and fractured the public’s trust.   Taking bribes in exchange for official actions is not politics as usual—it is an insidious crime that strikes at the heart of public service and will not be tolerated.”

Well, maybe it won’t be tolerated in the Eastern District of Virginia and most other federal judicial districts.

But here we have Idaho.

December 30, 2014

It Took a Murder in Spokane…

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 9:16 am

CarlileIt took a 2013 murder in Spokane  to expose the corruption on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

The murder of Douglas Carlile on December 15, 2013, in the kitchen of his south hill home in Spokane was quickly determined to be a targeted homicide.  The Spokane skews media covered the story as a local homicide and only occasionally made generalized references to Carlile’s possible business associations in North Dakota.

Then in its edition on Sunday, December 28, 2014,  New York Times writers Deborah Sontag and Brent McDonald give us the more complete picture in their news story headlined In North Dakota, a Tale of Oil, Corruption and Death.

The Times story states Doug Carlile’s murder in Spokane may have been the critical link that ultimately exposed the oil-related corruption both in and out of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.  As supervising tribal attorney Damon Williams was quoted in the article:  “I’ll be deadly honest.  If that gentleman [Doug Carlile] hadn’t gotten murdered in his kitchen in Washington, we might never have discovered what was going on here.”

The Times story is worth taking time to read.  It is a story of how corruption creeps into acceptance among respected and honored leaders of a community.  It is also the story of how the honest tribal members fought to expose the corruption.

November 22, 2014

Finally!!

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 9:31 am

PoliticalCorruption

OpenCdA hopes that every single one of our half-dozen or so readers has read Idaho State Representative Judy Boyle‘s guest opinion piece entitled Is Idaho as corrupt as Washington, D.C.?  It was in the November 19, 2014, Coeur d’Alene Press.

Finally!!  Finally a state-level elected official in Idaho has the courage to publicly speak out about what many of us have observed for years.  There is public corruption at the state, county, and city levels of Idaho government.  If only it stopped there, but unfortunately it doesn’t.  It is also among some in the administration and elected officials in some Idaho school systems including universities, colleges, community colleges, and primary and secondary schools.

The question is, will the public be willing to stand alongside and behind those honest public officials at all levels who genuinely want to expose corruption and demand that offenders not only be removed from positions of public trust but prosecuted as well?   That’s where it gets a little dicier.  (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.

September 28, 2014

Corruption Commission Concludes Testimony

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 1:47 pm

CorruptionEveryonePaysPublic testimony has concluded  in Quebec’s public corruption probe.

The corruption commission headed by Justice France Charbonneau was instituted in 2011 to examine the extent of corruption in the province’s construction industry and that industry’s ties with organized crime and provincial and local governments.

Evidence was presented which showed substantial and longstanding  infiltration by organized crime into the construction industry as well as the collusive and corrupt involvement of provincial and local government officials in awarding public contracts.

The most colorful and possibly most damaging testimony came from construction magnate Tony Accurso.  “His testimony provided an intimate window into the cosy [sic] relationship between Quebec political figures and businessmen who rely on public contracts for their livelihoods,” according to the story headlined Donations to Quebec Liberals the cost of doing business, Accurso tells corruption probe in the September 5, 2014,online news medium  OurWindsor.ca.  The article’s subheadline reads “Charbonneau commission hears about illegal political donations from construction boss at heart of Quebec’s corruption scandal.”

Organized crime’s infiltration into Quebec’s construction industry was fleshed out a bit in the September 17, 2014, Daily Commercial News story headlined High profile Quebec corruption inquiry hears from last witness.   Lest we think organized crime would not be interested in infiltrating the very lucrative construction industry in the United States, the article reported that one of the Charbonneau Commission’s witnesses was former US FBI Special Agent Joseph Pistone whose testimony “… served as a primer on the Mafia’s long-standing infiltration of the construction industry.”  And then there was this article from the OurWindsor.ca article dated September 3, 2014.  The article’s headline, Montreal mafia boss was a contact, construction magnate tells corruption probe, says it all.

The Charbonneau Commission is expected to issue its final report in April 2015.

Of course, the corruption of public officials to induce them to provide lucrative public contracts only happens in the Canadian Province of Quebec.  It could never happen in the State of Idaho.  It’s not as if multimillion dollar construction contracts are awarded by Idaho’s state and local governments.    And it’s not as if Idaho’s judges, prosecutors, county commissioners, sheriffs, mayors, and city councils would ever accept campaign finance contributions or other remuneration to use their discretion and influence to make sure that corruption investigations never get off the ground or to steer construction contracts toward “generous” contributors.  No, that could never happen here in Idaho or Kootenai County or Coeur d’Alene …

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 [montrealgazette.com] 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.

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