Attorney General reviews conflict of interest rules

Rep. Kathy Sims sent letter asking for help with interpretation

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COEUR d'ALENE - The Idaho Attorney General's Office is reviewing letters regarding rules related to conflicts of interest when it comes to city officials and the McEuen Field project.

After it reviews the letters, the office will issue a written response to Rep. Kathy Sims.

"We've not been involved in this issue," said Bob Cooper, spokesman, on Tuesday. "In order to respond to her concerns we have to understand the background."

Sims, R-Coeur d'Alene, asked for "help in interpreting and applying" the Idaho Ethics in Government rules regarding several Coeur d'Alene city officials who are involved in the decision-making process for McEuen Field, while also having business or property ties downtown.

"Sections of it certainly seem to apply in this matter," Sims wrote in late May, calling the project controversial because of the possible use of urban renewal dollars.

City Attorney Mike Gridley and Lake City Development Corp. legal representative Danielle Quade both said in a May 20 Press article that violations haven't occurred since none of the officials would receive a direct pecuniary benefit, thereby nullifying any conflict of interest claims as defined by Idaho Code 59-703.

Gridley's letter to Brian Kane, assistant chief deputy attorney general, called Sims' allegations "absurd."

According to Sims' argument, no public official who owned property in his or her jurisdiction would be able to take action on any item, Gridley wrote.

"Because every item that comes before public officials has the potential to provide some nominal or incremental benefit to a class to which they belong," he wrote.

Sims emailed Gridley on Saturday to tell him his letter didn't concern her.

"It is what I would have expected from you," she wrote.

Sims did not return a message or email from The Press Tuesday, but stated in her letter to the Attorney General's Office that she thought the issue required an investigation. The Attorney General's Office said Tuesday civil conflict charges are often pursued at the local level, should they warrant it.

Cooper couldn't specify when a response letter to Sims' questions would be issued.

"My mission is not to inflame Kathy Sims or anything like that," Gridley said Tuesday. "It's just troubling that we have elected officials where facts and law do not concern them."

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