February 8, 2016

One Honest Man Left Standing …

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 11:59 am

crystalcityWhat would happen if the FBI swooped into a town and arrested the mayor, the city attorney,  and all but one member of the city council?

That’s the question Crystal City, Texas, city councilman Joel Barajas is going to have to answer.  He’s the one man left on the city council after the FBI arrested the city’s mayor, mayor pro tem, the city attorney, and the rest of the council on corruption or human smuggling charges.

Here’s a link to the Washington Post article headlined FBI arrests nearly all of the top officials of Crystal City, Tex.   The information about the city attorney has a Bell-like ring to it.

However, the federal indictment does have some useful information for other cities whose officials may be corruptly inclined.  This is a very plain-language indictment.  One need not be an attorney to understand the federal jurisdiction, the object of the conspiracy, or the crimes alleged.

You can’t make this stuff up.

September 5, 2015

What’s in a Name?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 7:32 am

diversionignitecdaIn her online newsletter dated September 3, 2015, State Senator Mary Souza offered some advice to the Coeur d’Alene Urban Renewal Agency.

Sen. Souza advised, “Ditch the new name and logo, cancel the PR contract, return to the original name of Coeur d’Alene Urban Renewal Agency. Get rid of the paid consultants, lobbyists and the overpaid executive director position. Hire a manager and a clerical assistant and let’s have the board members stand for public election. We can even pay them a small fee for their time, which would place them under a higher level of the Idaho Ethics law.”

OpenCdA agrees with Senator Souza. (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“.

August 4, 2012

Undivided Loyalty

Public policy demands that an officeholder discharge his or her duties with undivided loyalty.  When an official is elected by her constituents to a position of public trust and responsibility, those constituents have every right to assume that the official will put the duties of that office ahead of those duties required of any and all other offices the official may hold.  Indeed, the official’s constituents have every right to assume the official will voluntarily and even automatically vacate any office whose duties are incompatible with those of a position she already holds.  This is the common law doctrine of incompatibility of office.  The Idaho Legislature and the City of Coeur d’Alene have chosen to ignore this. (more…)

January 14, 2012

Urban Renewal – Are Changes On The Way?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 4:12 pm

(click to enlarge)

Within a few days every Idaho state legislator will receive a copy of “Taxation Without Representation – LCDC,” a revealing look at how Idaho’s urban renewal laws have been misused in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  (This hyperlink is the low-resolution version because of limitations on file sizes we can upload.) The 16-page brochure was professionally designed and printed.  Printing costs were paid by private donations from concerned citizens of Coeur d’Alene, many of them private businesspeople.

Citizens in several Idaho cities, not just Coeur d’Alene, have been asking, “Just exactly how has our community benefited from the tax increment skimming our urban renewal agencies have been doing?”.  A news article titled New Eagle City Council champing at the bit for change in today’s Idaho Statesman raises the same question.

Rather than trying to “kill” urban renewal laws, Idaho’s citizens are trying to encourage legislators to modify them so they can achieve their intended purposes while at the same time making them less susceptible to predatory exploitation.

December 3, 2011

Killing a Monster

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 8:06 am

As the people of Idaho are learning, once a monster has been created, it’s not easy to kill it.  It’s even more difficult when the state legislature doesn’t really want it to die.

In a November 27, 2011, article headlined Urban renewal options, the Coeur d’Alene Press reminded its readers that Idaho’s urban renewal agencies are a creation of the Idaho legislature, not the municipalities which host them.  The urban renewal agencies are a separate political subdivision of the state, not a department of their host municipality.  (more…)

October 23, 2011

Cover Up? Yes!

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 3:30 pm

Who owns the Coeur d’Alene Public Library?

On October 11, Sharon Culbreth, Representative Kathy Sims, and Mary Souza revealed to about 80 citizens at the Lake City Center that the Library was owned by the Lake City Development Corporation (LCDC), an Idaho urban renewal agency.

Mary Souza’s post on on October 16 linked to the documents showing the Library is owned by the LCDC.

Then on October 20, the Coeur d’Alene Press ran an article headlined Book it:  City owns library.  Clever headline, but the article did not produce any documentation showing City ownership.

Representative Kathy Sims’ “My Turn” column in the October 22 Coeur d’Alene Press is headlined “Exposing the city’s cover up.”  Is that too harsh?  After all, “cover up” alleges an action or series of actions done intentionally to hide something.  In this instance, it is exactly the correct terminology. (more…)

October 11, 2011

Berns Must Go (And He Shouldn’t Go Alone)!

Well, the Commissioners of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho’s urban renewal agency, the Lake City Development Corporation (LCDC) and its Executive Director Tony Berns (shown left)  are still trying their best to hide public information from the public.

Now the LCDC Commissioners have adopted and enforced a formal policy requiring that all requests for public information must be submitted on a specific form which the LCDC has adopted.

The most recent egregious exercise of this policy was brought to light by reporter Tom Hasslinger’s article in the February 11, 2011, Coeur d’Alene Press headlined online with LCDC director, activist spar over records request.


May 31, 2011

“Scurrilous!” Really? Let’s Compare…

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 10:16 am


This morning’s Coeur d’Alene Press online posted a letter from Coeur d’Alene City Attorney Mike Gridley to Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane.

It would have been responsible journalism and less biased if the Press had simultaneously posted both this letter from Representative Kathy Sims to Attorney General Lawrence Wasden side-by-side with Gridley’s response so the public would have some context. (more…)

April 27, 2011

Urban Renewal Town Hall Meeting

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 9:03 am


The Lake City Senior Center meeting room was nearly full for last night’s town hall meeting to inform the public about Idaho’s urban renewal law application by the City’s urban renewal agency, the Lake City Development Corporation.

The meeting was reported in this morning’s Coeur d’Alene Press article headlined Citizens talk urban renewal.

Here are some photos from last night’s meeting.  (Mouse click on each photo to enlarge it.) (more…)

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