Recall wording still on ballot

Officials: Fire district leader didn't violate laws

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COEUR d'ALENE - A commissioner for the Mica Kidd Island Fire District did not have an illegal executive session, a prosecutor and the district's attorney have determined.

The commissioner, Chris Shelton, still faces a recall election in November, and the allegation may remain on the ballot unless he can get a judge to scrub it before voters make their decision.

Ken Brooks, a Kootenai County deputy prosecutor, and Charles Lempesis, an attorney for the district, made their decisions this week.

"From time to time it is good for us to know where we have done less than a perfect job so that we may improve," Lempesis wrote in a letter Tuesday to the fire district's board of commissioners. "This is such a case. However, I find no violation of the law and think we should move on."

Brooks, in an email Tuesday to Shelton, said he has decided against filing an infraction charge.

Brooks said it appears notice for the July 25 meeting was posted within the required time frame.

"I have reviewed the minutes of the meeting and it appears that there was an open public meeting wherein it was decided to go into executive session," Brooks wrote. "There were a series of emails prior to the meeting, but the ones I have reviewed only indicate that they concerned the timing of the meeting, not the actual substance."

According to the statute, he said, it is acceptable to correspond using email to schedule a meeting, as long as the meeting itself is open to the public.

The allegation of an illegal executive session was only one of the reasons why residents of the community sought to recall Shelton. They also say he had lost touch with residents' "desires and wishes," and they said he pushed for a "burdensome and intrusive" proposed fee schedule for services provided by the fire district.

Shelton said he is frustrated that the recall ballot language will accuse him of violating executive session rules when it turned out he didn't.

"I can't do anything about it except spend money to refute it," he said Thursday. He said the false allegations hurt him personally and his family.

He said he is considering hiring a private attorney.

Tim Hurst, chief deputy of the Idaho Secretary of State's Office, told Shelton in an email Thursday that if Shelton wanted to do something about the ballot language "you will need to go to court and have a judge issue an order requiring it."

Hurst wrote that nothing in Idaho law allows a county clerk to make changes to either the statements for or against a recall, which are printed on the ballot.

"Part of the reason for giving you 200 words on the ballot is to give you an opportunity to refute the claims," Hurst wrote. "Unfortunately, the law does not say that the reason for the recall must be true."

"I'd say that to propose the elections department be the evaluator of 'truth' of any ballot wording is certainly far beyond the scope of what present statutes require," said Pat Raffee, Kootenai County deputy clerk. "I personally cannot envision Idaho's legislators (being) in support of such an enlargement of our responsibilities."

Such an increase in responsibility would require greater county expense, she said.

"I think we have all learned there are consequences to the concept of voters arbitrating disagreements among taxing district leaders that were not envisioned in Idaho code," Raffee told The Press.

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