Request(s) denied - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Request(s) denied

County, newspaper at odds over seeking of public records

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Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2014 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - Kootenai County isn't naming names.

Three payments totaling $102,000 were made to undisclosed county employees in a span of three months, according to information the Kootenai County Clerk's Office released Thursday.

The bulk of a broad records request The Press submitted to the clerk's office two weeks ago was denied, including a request for names of employees who received the payments as settlements or severance.

The records request is one of many The Press has submitted after uncovering large payments the county and its insurer have made to former county employees, including more than $300,000 to a deputy prosecutor.

From the limited information The Press has been able to obtain through those requests, it appears former employees have received settlements and severance pay from multiple sources and accounts.

Idaho's public records laws require a response to records requests within three days. The Kootenai County Clerk's office responded to the newspaper's April 11 records request after three business days, saying it would take more time to locate the records. When The Press received a response on Thursday - 10 business days after the initial request - the clerk's office merely provided a single-page printout of a ledger listing three payments and no names.

"For many years, the county has been exemplary in complying with requests for information that the public has a right to know," said Mike Patrick, the newspaper's editor. "I'm not sure why that's changed, but the fact that some officials are taking so long and then not fully complying with the law is deeply disturbing."

One payment, made on Dec. 30, 2013, was for $60,000 and described as a severance payment. A $30,000 check was written on Jan. 7, described only as "payment." The third, paid on March 5 in the amount of $12,000, was also described as a severance payment.

The Press previously reported that the county earlier this year paid $30,000 to former community development director Scott Clark and $12,000 to former human resources employee Christina Anderson.

Previous records requests revealed the county's insurer - ICRMP - paid $315,000 to Deputy Prosecutor Kenneth D. Stone, who was fired in March 2011 following a sexual harassment investigation. The insurer also paid the county a $30,000 lump sum as reimbursement for wages to hire Stone back as a county employee - though he hasn't worked a day since his initial firing - until he is eligible for retirement.

That money was deposited into a county account separate from the other settlements and severance.

In a response Thursday from the clerk's office, Deputy Clerk Brandie Bradley wrote that "the clerk's office is not the custodian of any other records pertaining to your request."

Kootenai County Clerk Jim Brannon said Friday that he could not recall if he had reviewed The Press' records request.

"We are seeing so many records requests," Brannon said. "We have gotten a whole bunch of them, which is great. Citizens want to know answers. Reporters want to know answers."

Brannon said he brought up the issue of public records at the county's elected officials meeting last week because he feels so strongly about transparency.

"For the clerk's department, I'd say every effort is made to get (a records request) in the hands of somebody who can act upon it," he said. "I truly can't speak for other elected officials."

Patrick said the large payments to former employees are discouraging from a taxpayer perspective, and that the county's apparent reluctance to fully disclose as much information as possible only increases the public's skepticism.

"This isn't a game of 'Gotcha,'" he said. "We think citizens have a right to know how effectively the county is managing its workforce, and full disclosure of the information we're seeking is an important element of that."

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17 comments:

  • Diamond Jim posted at 11:39 pm on Mon, Apr 28, 2014.

    Diamond Jim Posts: 54

    Prosecutor Barry McHugh is responsible for advising the commissioners on public records per bob-athol's post above. It was his bungled termination of a deputy prosecutor that caused the large award to the fired employee. Seems as if McHugh has a conflict here and wants to keep a lid on what could be larger issues concerning his management (or lack of) incomptetence. I hope the Press has a competent lawyer who will file a lawsuit to force the county to cough up more details.

     
  • Miketeague posted at 11:52 am on Mon, Apr 28, 2014.

    Miketeague Posts: 2627

    CC as usual you have missed the point, I believe CHSdad is pointing out how Opencda seems to go quiet when their own are involved. If this had been the city instead of the flock of republicans running the county you, Souza and Open would have been all over it, but then fair play is not in your ball park is it.
    I don’t think the rupub’s realize the more they stonewall the more guilty of wasting taxpayer money they look. I’m wondering at what point does refusing a reasonable request does it become criminal?

     
  • imisscda posted at 11:48 am on Mon, Apr 28, 2014.

    imisscda Posts: 111

    wahahaha -- oh, I thought this was a tongue-in-cheek post

     
  • concernedcitizen posted at 7:12 am on Mon, Apr 28, 2014.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    Obviously CHSdad does not believe in transparency. Must be a on of those entitled government employees.
    ;)

     
  • Noah Simone posted at 9:23 pm on Sun, Apr 27, 2014.

    Noah Simone Posts: 43

    Interesting perspectives.

     
  • CHSdad posted at 2:59 pm on Sun, Apr 27, 2014.

    CHSdad Posts: 383

    Ok, I checked it out and I guess they are still too outraged to actually comment.

     
  • CHSdad posted at 2:04 pm on Sun, Apr 27, 2014.

    CHSdad Posts: 383

    I daren't look at opencda, but I'm sure they are up in arms over this.

     
  • arius1 posted at 11:07 am on Sun, Apr 27, 2014.

    arius1 Posts: 966

    How hard can it be for management to chat with the person writing or authorizing the checks to see who is being paid, and then forward that on to the press or requesting party. Why 5 minutes of time turns into 5-10 days with unclear answers, brings suspicion upon those in charge. Why would you want that if transparency is paramount for public trust of our money and officials ?

     
  • Bob Loblaw posted at 9:09 am on Sun, Apr 27, 2014.

    Bob Loblaw Posts: 413

    Pelf.

     
  • Just_K posted at 8:57 am on Sun, Apr 27, 2014.

    Just_K Posts: 84

    Looks like the same ol' ... delay, then the time will go on and maybe the public or person asking, will forget about it, move on to the next subject of the day and they've been successful at dodging the question being asked. Press...Please do not forget about this! Kootenai county taxpayers have a right to know where the money is being spent. It's OUR money! If there are laxes in the managing of emplyees and/or departments, clean up needs to be done.

     
  • oscar posted at 8:54 am on Sun, Apr 27, 2014.

    oscar Posts: 1707

    Everyone in public office talks about transparency until they have to cough up the goods. Thank you CDA Press for your diligence in this matter. I hope you continue pursuing this and other topics before our upcoming elections so we can make better informed decisions.

     
  • Enough Already posted at 8:44 am on Sun, Apr 27, 2014.

    Enough Already Posts: 216

    Another part of the problem is while personnel matters may be discussed in Executive Session no decisions can be made in Executive Session that the KC BOCC does all of the time incomparable to any other government entity that I’ve seen. A true secret society down there.

    Concluding a Executive Session back on the record Employee A or Student B can easily be used instead at our County the public record constantly lacks compliance with Idaho laws. Public information should never be this hard to obtain.

     
  • Why Not posted at 7:33 am on Sun, Apr 27, 2014.

    Why Not Posts: 5326

    99.999 of businesses are sole proprietor in downtown manana. How do these businesses merit an investigation, or are you inferring that Duane Hagadone and the Hagadone Corporation are doing something illegal?

    What do you know?

    What's your reasoning manana?

    Consider this manana, Duane Hagadone has done more to improve and maintain the character of the downtown than any person in this community. If not for Hagadone, downtown would have been bulldozed and turned into a Wall Mart anchored by McDonalds years ago.

     
  • Enough Already posted at 7:29 am on Sun, Apr 27, 2014.

    Enough Already Posts: 216

    Similarly this also recently happened to me. Delayed from 3 to 10 days to locate the records then over 10 working days later I received the response that they are not the custodians at the Clerk’s office. A clear abuse when the law allows time to locate records, they delayed only to claim they have nothing. Sadder yet not having the records when public money is spent is even more illegal.

    They have done nothing about the problem and continue on business as usual for the Clerk’s office.

     
  • manana posted at 6:32 am on Sun, Apr 27, 2014.

    manana Posts: 179

    Even though the Press won't go after downtown business interests I'm glad they at least do this. Half a glass is better than nothing.

     
  • bob-athol posted at 5:53 am on Sun, Apr 27, 2014.

    bob-athol Posts: 192

    Kudo's to Taryn for staying on this issue.

    I was the only public citizen attending the elected officials pubic hearing that Jim referenced where he brought the issue up.
    Mike Patrick (Press editor) is asking "whats changed", and "it is disturbing", ..... I think I heard the answer Mike is searching for.
    When Jim brought this issue up, (it was on the agenda) the response was that the BOCC had provided funding for a person in the prosecutors office to handle all records requests for all departments, all records requests are now being handled by a staff person under Barry. There is a new step in the public records request process that was not there before. I also make a few dozen records requests every year, I have not noticed that it takes less or more time. Personally I'm ok with 5-10 days but I do expect to get what I ask for and I'm disappointed when I get a runaround answer.

     
  • Why Not posted at 5:11 am on Sun, Apr 27, 2014.

    Why Not Posts: 5326

    It is quite pleasing that the Press is diligently pursuing this issue. Maybe instead of chasing the money, Mr Patrick would have better luck investigating which departments are responsible. Certainly the public has the right to know about lapses in management and why there are so many disconnects between department level management and HR.

     
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