Green conviction shakes up sheriff’s race

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    Photo courtesy of Duane Rasmussen Six candidates for Kootenai County sheriff participated in a forum Dec. 10, 2019, at Centennial Distributing in Hayden. More than 150 people, mostly law enforcement, showed up for the event that included (from left) Mike Bauer, Richard Whitehead, Bob Norris, Kim Edmondson, John Green and John Grimm.

  • Green

  • 1

    Photo courtesy of Duane Rasmussen Six candidates for Kootenai County sheriff participated in a forum Dec. 10, 2019, at Centennial Distributing in Hayden. More than 150 people, mostly law enforcement, showed up for the event that included (from left) Mike Bauer, Richard Whitehead, Bob Norris, Kim Edmondson, John Green and John Grimm.

Wednesday’s federal conviction in a Texas courthouse of Rathdrum’s John Green started a spiral of ramifications that snowballed into Thursday afternoon, when the Legislature voted to vacate Rathdrum’s now-former representative from the Idaho House.

Tim Kastning — himself a candidate for the District 2 Seat B position — filled in as a temporary appointee until Thursday, when he came back to North Idaho, smoothing the way for the House to render Green’s seat as vacant by a 65-0 vote.

That expulsion, however, is only half of the political story behind Green’s conviction in federal court of conspiracy to defraud the United States by helping a Texas couple evade approximately $1.1 million in taxes.

When the sun came up Wednesday morning, Green was one of seven residents — and six remaining — who intend to declare for Kootenai County sheriff, perhaps the hottest race in the May Republican primary. By the time the sun set, that intention became technically moot.

Article VI, Section 3 of the Idaho Constitution states the following exclusion:

“No person,” it reads, “is permitted to vote, serve as a juror, or hold any civil office who has, at any place, been convicted of a felony, and who has not been restored to the rights of citizenship, or who, at the time of such election, is confined in prison on conviction of a criminal offense.”

This is the clause sent to the Coeur d’Alene Press by county clerk Jim Brannon. It is also the clause referenced to people who call in to the Elections Office and ask if Green is still eligible to run for sheriff.

In a technical sense, Green was never a candidate because he — just like the others who have made their intention to run known — had not yet filed. The window for filing begins March 2 and ends March 13, Brannon said.

Technicalities aside, Green was a candidate. He told supporters and the Coeur d’Alene Press he would run for sheriff. He set up a Facebook campaign page that has since been made unavailable for public view.

He participated in a sheriff’s candidate forum in December. He had filed his appointment with the County Elections office for Ignatius Epkey to serve as his campaign treasurer. His conviction prohibits him from officially filing, effectively ending his campaign.

Green has not responded to multiple requests for comment from The Press.

The week’s developments have now changed the political landscape, leaving five likely sheriff candidates for May’s election: Mike Bauer, Kim Edmondson, John Grimm, Robert Norris and Richard Whitehead. (Scott Jones was also running for Kootenai County sheriff but pulled out of the race last year, following a new path toward medical school.)

Most of the remaining candidates spoke no ill will toward Green, who faces up to five years in prison.

“A lot of his world is crumbling right now,” Norris said. “It’s an unfortunate situation. I’m just looking forward right now: looking forward to serve the people of Kootenai County.”

Edmondson, a captain with the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, said Green’s day in court came and went, but that he still had avenues in front of him.

“I feel for the guy,” she said. “Just like anyone else brought through the backdoor of the Kootenai County courthouse, [Green] will have an opportunity to avail himself of the justice system. But it’s a tough road ahead for him.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with the Green family,” Grimm said in a statement.

“My family is praying for him, and especially his family,” Whitehead said.

Bauer, however, held little back.

“I like windmills,” Bauer said of Green. “I’ve tilted at a few in my time, and a lot of people thought his battle [against the Internal Revenue Service] was one they could support. I’ve fought the IRS before. But a person doesn’t deny their legitimacy as a recognized part of our government.”

Bauer said he wasn’t surprised by Green’s legal strategy, or its consequences.

“If John chose to take a personal stand, that’s his right,” Bauer said. “But if not, John should’ve known better … At the end of the day, we don’t need a sheriff who breaks the law.”

Bauer added that he was concerned about the motives behind Green’s run for sheriff in the first place.

“It seems like he was using the race for cover,” he speculated, “cover for his upcoming trial.”

Bauer added that the top problem facing the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office is a cultural problem in a divide between management and deputies, one he expects will take four to six years to fix and one compounded by two of the remaining candidates.

“The fact that Bob [Norris] and Kim [Edmondson] … are pulling [at the loyalties of] the deputies is a sign of that cultural problem,” he said. “The way the [Sheriff’s Office] organization is shaping up, it needs to be grabbed a hold of and brought together.”

Bauer referred to the recent interview process the Kootenai County Deputy Sheriff’s Association conducted in December; Bauer nor Grimm nor Whitehead were interviewed by the association, he said.

“The association has done an incredible job vetting the candidates,” Norris responded, “and have a right to make their voice heard. If the sheriff-elect isn’t their endorsee, a good leader says, ‘I will prove to this organization why I am the best person for this job,’ while an inferior leader warns against such endorsement.”

When asked about the name recognition Green brought to the race and how Rathdrum voters might now experience indecision about the upcoming election, Norris said the No. 1 issue facing Rathdrum from a law enforcement perspective is the same countywide from every other perspective: unprecedented growth.

“Regardless of if I want this community to change or not, it’s changing,” he stated. “Growth is coming with that change. The Bob Norris administration will protect this community and prepare this organization for the growth that’s coming.”

When asked to cite specific growth concerns, he first referenced high-density housing that will most likely come to the area.

“I’m concerned about the amount of multi-family unit dwellings that are popping up everywhere,” Norris said. “Generally, we see a higher percentage of probationers, a higher percentage of parolees and a higher percentage of [dispatch] calls. This is a hidden tax we’ll all have to pay.”

He said the answer comes from listening to the citizenry — something he said he intends to do through a series of town halls — and striking the right balance.

“I think there has to be a balance we have to have with housing,” he said, “just like with everything else. Every infrastructure center in Kootenai County is being stressed, from schools to roads to jails. Every sector is being stressed out by this growth.”

Edmondson also rejected Bauer’s notion of an endorsement by the deputies equating to strife in the Sheriff’s Office.

“The association invited us to participate in the process,” she said. “I don’t think we’re vying for their endorsement as much as they provided an opportunity to talk to them. It was the first time in my recollection [after nearly 28 years] that they’re endorsing a candidate … It comes down to what [the association] wants. I can’t influence people I work with. I can’t. It’s a violation of the Hatch Act.”

Edmondson said she had spoken to Rathdrum residents at a Chamber luncheon earlier in the week and was thankful to listen to their concerns.

“It was a great opportunity,” she said. “The people of Rathdrum: Their heart is their community. The growth we face is going to be challenging, including how law enforcement deals with our interactions with schools...The county needs to evolve, but I don’t think we make changes for the sake of change.”

Edmondson added that how mental health needs to be addressed — for both law enforcement and the citizens — is one of her priorities.

Whitehead, meanwhile, said his 40 years of experience — including 14 years in command positions — was uniquely valuable because of what he saw in a different sheriff’s office at just the right place in just the right time.

“… I faced this same thing in Texas in the ’90s,” he said, emphasizing he saw explosive growth in his office before he was sheriff. “I was instrumental in building relationships with commissioners and citizens as a whole, where I was able to bring those two groups together [to address growth].”

Whitehead said the biggest issue was neither communication nor culture but cash.

“Funding is the biggest challenge [the KCSO faces],” he said. “Funding, which has led to a significant lack of experience at all levels. But the liability comes from the deputy level, greatly increases the county’s liability.”

Whitehead explained that the lack of funding has led to a lack of staffing and mandatory overtime for those manning detention centers. He said, as sheriff, he would exercise political muscle to better enforce the law.

“[I’d propose] a huge educational campaign for the citizens of the county to show commissioners where the needs are,” he said, “to help me sell the commissioners how we need to fund our Sheriff’s Office.”

Grimm has said that the disparity between deputies and management levels is less about pay and more about culture.

“I know that pay is not the No. 1 reason people leave,” Grimm said in December. “… People don’t leave a good organization. They leave bad management.”

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