County

Group Drops Another Bombshell On Dynamis-Ada Deal, Law Should Allow AG To Investigate

Those “Safe Idaho Citizens” dropped yet another bombshell today on the Dynamis-Ada trash to energy project, claiming the Ada Commishes ponied up $71,000 in public money for a lobbyist on behalf Dynamis.

They have provided public records documents obtained from Ada County to back up their claim that former Dirk Kempthorn aide and Tamarack promoter Scott Turnlington was paid the public money to lobby for Dynamis to influence elected officials.

As this scandal has evolved, officials at Ada have clammed up, refused to answer media inquiries–including those of the Statesman and the GUARDIAN–and even falsely claimed a letter from the county engineer seeking additional technical review was a “personnel matter.”

The GUARDIAN is providing the links to their site as a public service. The group is well organized and single minded in its opposition to the trash to energy project. We have talked to members who appear to be well informed and intelligent, thus a potent force in community activism. It was mainly through their efforts that a formal investigation has finally been launched AFTER being handed off five times by officials claiming “conflicts of interest.” Even so, the Ada Sheriff and Ada Prosecutor hired the single investigator.

CHANGE IN IDAHO CODE NEEDED

There has been a deteriorating confidence in local government, due in part to the lack of oversight by a higher authority such as the state government. Under current Idaho law, the local Prosecuting Attorney has the sole authority to investigate and prosecute violations of state law in the county. In essence the locals can do as they please.

A local prosecutor holds more authority than the Attorney General and if the prosecutor is crooked or inept, there is no recourse for decent citizens, short of a federal case which is very difficult to obtain. Only the local prosecutor OR the board of county commissioners can ask the court to appoint a “special prosecutor.”

The GUARDIAN thinks we need legislation to give the Idaho Attorney General CONCURRENT JURISDICTION with local prosecutors to prosecute violations of Idaho code throughout the state. That way, when the local prosecutor refuses to act or is crooked, the AG can step in on behalf the honest decent citizens. This would be no different than the current law giving Idaho State Police concurrent jurisdiction with county sheriffs. The Sheriff is the top copper of the county, but he can’t keep ISP out.

Hopefully there will be some discussion at the next legislative session, but the AG will obviously need more investigators and lawyers–and the money to pay them.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. My Two Cents
    Sep 22, 2012, 10:30 am

    I did not realize Scott Turlington was a lobbyist. Just assumed he was a principal of Dynamis. Turlington was the one involved in all the non-public meetings held by Fred Tilman that began this whole mess. If you review the petition filed on behalf of the citizens group, you’ll see calendar items showing all the non-public meetings: 10/21/09, 5/6/10, 5/18/10, 5/27/10 meetings between Commissioner Tilman and Turlington. Turlington was also in the meetings with Commissioner Tilman and Dynamis’ Lloyd Mahaffey on 6/4/10 and 6/11/10, and he was in the meetings with Commissioner Ullman and Dynamis’ Mahaffey on 6/15/10 and the one with Commissioner Yzaguirre and Dynamis’ Mahaffey 6/15/10 (all of which led up to the 6/30/10 signing of the contract), as well as the 8/17/10 Ullman and Mahaffey meeting about compliance (or the lack thereof). To find out he received a huge payment from County coffers simply takes one’s breath away. And yes, the law that only the Prosecutor (fox) can investigate the Commissioners (henhouse) is terrible. Why can’t citizens request the Attorney General’s intervention in what may be illegal activities? I think the only way to get a true investigation is probably for someone to file an actual lawsuit. But you’re right. The law should be changed. No one should be above the law. And no one should think they’re untouchable and do not have to serve the public who elected them to office.

    EDITOR NOTE–Two Cents, thanks for the additional documentation. The GUARDIAN should be a virtual treasure trove of data for the investigator–thanks to the factual information provided by readers like you.

  2. Voters need to take the wheel.

    I fear this is only the tip of the iceberg considering Idaho is a one party system. I strongly urge Idaho Republican leadership to appoint a new Captain and get things shipshape before the party is sunk by upset voters. Very resonable Democrates had power in Idaho not long ago.

    When this is all over in a few years I have a hunch there will be a strange sub-plot.

  3. My Two Cents
    Sep 22, 2012, 10:41 am

    It is not additional documentation; it is just pointing out salient details that have already been made public. Happy to spend the time flagging these items to assist the future investigator. But most thanks go to you, Dave, for your tireless efforts in this matter, especially during the earlier times when the daily newspaper did not report details nor seem to do any real investigation, as they finally are doing now.

  4. In this case, the Ada prosecutor did ask the AG’s Office to step in. The AG declined, citing a conflict of interest because one deputy who handles Open Meeting/Public Record Laws lives in the Hidden Springs area. I disagree with the AG’s decision. Another deputy should have been appointed. Our elected officials at all governmental levels need a stronger sense of law and order and accountability. I agree that the laws should be strengthened to provide greater oversight of local prosecutors. BTW, the Ada prosecutor has been tapped to prosecute former 2C prosecutor John Bujak on one of the charges against him (computer crime.) I envision a plea deal that requires Bujak to stand near a jail cell for 15 minutes and reflect on his naughtiness.

    The entire Dynamis mess is a travesty and unacceptable to Ada County citizens. Dynamis doesn’t need financial backing — it has Ada County public funds at its disposal, it seems.
    Have a nice weekend.

    EDITOR NOTE–Recent specific issue for AG authority is the denial of a Statesman record request, claiming it was a “personnel matter.” The fraudulent response was sent (cc) to the prosecutor who should have prosecuted the official who denied the request, but the prosecutor is legal counsel to that official.

  5. Shocked vOTER
    Sep 22, 2012, 11:52 am

    I am suprised that some group haven’t taken the bull by the horns and started a recall election against Yzaguirre. I voted for him when he was eagle Mayor but have voted for his apponet ever since his sales tax fiasco (not paying tax collected at Justos).. This new fiasco with Dynamis smells like it is—Rotten

  6. My two cents
    Sep 22, 2012, 1:05 pm

    Kappa, as I recall, prosecutor’s request to the attorney general was made very very late in the game, after repeated requests that had been ignored, and only when public pressure (in particular, the formal petition by the citizens group) was made.

  7. Grumpy ole guy
    Sep 22, 2012, 4:24 pm

    It is clear that the Guardian opinion is correct – SOMETHING needs to be done so that citizens can have recourse short of waiting for the next election to correct wrongs, or investigate the claims of wrongs in cases such as this. I am not enough of a legal expert to know WHAT that change should be; but, do wonder if the AG’s office couldn’t designate someone or some agency or office to act in its behalf when there is a perception of conflict of interest. Or, if the State feels it cannot act is there either some reciprocal agreement with other states, or a Federal office to which such matters could be referred? If not, should such an arrangement be made?
    The clear violation of good faith seems to demand some sort of investigation, and if legal violations have taken place, some form of sanction put into place.

    EDITOR NOTE–Grumpy, the Feds can come in if there is “public corruption” suspected, but the decision to investigate has to go through the Dept. of Justice in Washington. Our problem in Idaho is the existing law simply prohibits the AG from doing anything unless invited by the local prosecutor. If the local is crooked or involved in questionable acts, there is no recourse. With a law granting the AG CONCURRENT JURISDICTION just like ISP currently enjoys, it removes the excuse for the AG to hide behind or the shield for locals to ignore the law. We don’t need other states to investigate, we need officials with the cajones to do what is lawful and just.

  8. costaprettypenny
    Sep 22, 2012, 9:54 pm

    AG CONCURRENT JURISDICTION needs to include the cities as well.

  9. It would take more than a statute to give the Attorney General actual, enforceable power. It would take a constitutional amendment. The Idaho Supreme Court has made this quite clear in an opinion issued back in the 90’s involving a horrific county prosecution in TF County, where the AG attempted to intervene and take over. The Supreme Court slapped the AG down. In order for the AG to actually be able to do something without an official invitation from the county prosecutor, there would have to be a constitutional amendment.

    EDITOR NOTE–If true, we need to get after the legislature to pass such a simple language amendment and then send it to the people. There is no mechanism in Idaho for the people to initiate an amendment. Only the legislature can amend the constitution with a 2/3 vote of both houses and then a simple majority of the people.

  10. I agree with BG on this one. I didn’t take poly sci in college but Concurrent Jurisdiction seems reasonable. But with all things governmental there’s probably some downside.

    I’d go a step further though and change the whole structure of our local government. In Maryland, independent cities hardly exist at all. Most of the populous county governments are strong and have a great deal of autonomy and instead of just a commission they have an Executive/Council.

    Take Montgomery County for example. A county that has grown tremendously since WWII. Recently they voted to expand the council from 7 to 9.

    Why does Ada County only have 3 Commissioners for 400,000 people? I’ve brought this up before but apparently I’m the only one who can see this. Disenfranchisement. Our vote grows more diluted every year as the population grows while our representation doesn’t.

    Contrary to popular convention, taxes weren’t the only issue in the Revolutionary War. Representation was a big issue then, sadly, not so much anymore.

    EDITOR NOTE–Sounds like you are advocating a “county manager” professional who is governed by a representative board. We hope you don’t want even more commishes making $97,000 who will have super retirement through PERSI.

  11. Do the people taking county money know they are “moochers?” Shouldn’t someone tell them since they are Republicans?

  12. What does “concurrent” juridiction actually mean? Two people in charge? Two people who can fight with each other about what is right? Think carefully about this. I am more intrigued by a constitutional amendment that would abolish county prosecutors and create district attorneys, consolidating many areas of the state and pooling resources. I would oppose anything that would result in two people having power, allowing bickering and fighting over who is actually in charge.

    EDITOR NOTE–Abolishing county prosecutors would be politically difficult. Concurrent means “at the same time.” For instance: The sheriff is the top law enforcement official of the county, but the state police have CONCURRENT jurisdiction in all counties. There is no argument over any Idaho code enforcement. BOTH agencies have authority. Sooooo, if the sheriff refuses to investigate an obvious violation or crime, ISP can come in and see that laws are enforced. We need the same authority for the AG. Checks and balances are important in democracy.

  13. I wonder when this is all over will the Bannock County prosecutor actually step up and prosecute someone, or will this become a case of “there was insufficient evidence to prove the use of county funds was illegal.” If anybody goes to jail they should also forfeit their PERSI, which is the real reason I suspect they will avoid prosecution.

    Imagine what would have happened if Sharon had made a successful bid for the Governor.

  14. chicago sam
    Sep 23, 2012, 4:16 pm

    It is really hard to believe if you do all the right things your project won’t go thru. You pick a green energy project,You make sure that the feds and state will give you as much as 50% of your construction costs. you polish your presentation so it is slick for the rubes you present it too.You hire a connected lobbyist to make sure your project is called renewable, you hire a lawyer who is connected to many of the wheels in the State and of course you put some grease in politicians campaigns just in case, and for icing on the cake one of your employees romances the stone.
    Don’t know if that covers everything but it’s a start–What could possibly go wrong with this plan?

  15. Branden Durst
    Sep 23, 2012, 5:46 pm

    I agree with you on this one. The new language, whether statutory or constitutional, would be a valuable addition. County prosecutors often lack the perspective necessary to properly investigate issues.

    EDITOR NOTE–Are you ready to take a bi-partisan stand to introduce the bill? The language can be as simple as: “the attorney general shall have concurrent jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute any and all violations of Idaho Code in any county of the state.”

  16. Branden Durst
    Sep 23, 2012, 6:51 pm

    Absolutely I am. I have taken a lot of bi-partisan stands on things. I believe that transparency in government is critical and this falls well within that realm.

  17. Clippityclop
    Sep 23, 2012, 8:12 pm

    After Tamarack, I think Scott Turlington became a lobbyist for the failed PC Avimor, now apparently has gone onto this. Curious. He’s not the issue, however, only doing his job. The issue is in the Commissioners’ lap. This is becoming surreal.

  18. Part of the talk around the County Building is that the two Commisioners in question on this issue have stated that “there isn’t anyone who can call us on this”.

    It is almost like they banked on the fact that no one can investigate the issue…thus no risk to them…or accountability.

  19. loser emeritus
    Sep 24, 2012, 4:30 am

    Sounds like some bank records need to be subpoenaed.

  20. There are too many lawyers here, that is the problem plain and simple, get rid of all the greed (lawyers) and the corruption will inevitably fade away.

  21. Guardian wrote: Sounds like you are advocating a “county manager” professional who is governed by a representative board. We hope you don’t want even more commishes making $97,000 who will have super retirement through PERSI.

    Isn’t that a bit of a straw man? I did not state that I’d like to see more commissioners making that kind of money. $97k/year, when did that happen? Last I checked it was about $80k/year. It seems like there is only one argument against expanding the number of our representatives and that is— It will cost more. Well, we get what we pay for.

    All of you, you cannot complain about how things are going at Ada County and ignore the fact that there are only 3 commissioners representing 215,000 registered voters (2010 general election). No wonder there’s the air of cronyism. Only 3 people running a government which oversees the activity of 400,000, how can we accept this?

    I don’t know all the ins and outs of the County Manager system. I don’t like the idea of appointments at all. The County Manager should be an elected position and there should be at least 6 County Councilors. Isn’t this the checks and balances notion that the Guardian lauds in the note to poster James Bond on this very page?

    All I’m saying is that we should seriously debate the larger issue, the big picture, instead of always focusing narrowly on one controversy after another. What we have here is a can’t see the forest for the trees situation.

    EDITOR NOTE–Cynic, take a deep breath! We AGREE with you! It could easily be expanded with no extra expense. Paul has advocated a system which is in essence like the city council and city manager system. The $97,000 salary is correct. We could easily agree to paying a professional manager $150,000 and splitting the remaining $150,000 among 5 or 7 part time commishes (need odd number to prevent tie votes).

  22. Well then….this explains why Ada County’s online Accounts Payable Archive has been down for a while!

    http://adaweb.net/Commissioners/AdaCountyFinancials/OnlineAccountsPayableJournal.aspx

    “Think of this as a check register that accounts for every check written to our vendors within the referenced timeframe.”

  23. Interested Citizen
    Sep 26, 2012, 5:44 am

    Well, one should make no mistake: Canyon County and Nampa did not get rid of the corruption when Bujak resigned!!!!

    And further, make no mistake: Many of the criminals have not been charged yet.

  24. chicago sam
    Sep 26, 2012, 8:21 am

    Sigh–Nampa just had another Icon resign Supt. Gary Larson. It seems the missing 2.8 million has caused him nightmares and more bad news coming. Cursury reading of the 2011 auditors report indicate red flags. Guess school board and Administration either did not read the report or took no action

  25. My Two Cents
    Sep 26, 2012, 11:05 am

    I have to agree with Boise Cynic and respectfully disagree with Dave about the concept of a County Manager. Ada County has operated in this fashion despite not being constitutionally set up to do so, since appointing Rich Wright as the Director of Administrative Services back in 2009. He operated as a defacto County Manager in all respects other than title. He receives a high salary that is, I believe, just a tad less than the Commissioners do. A County Manager is untouchable (other than being fired by those who appointed him) and he can do the dirty work for the commissioners. This method of operating as what some fondly call “the fourth commissioner” is dangerous in my opinion because there are no checks and balances and creates a terrible situation where you have a non-elected official with no accountability to voters nor even any requirement to abide by the laws that regulate how elected officials operate. At least with an elected Board, one can vote a commissioner out of office as has just occurred with Commissioner Ullman. And why on earth would a three-person board earning $97,000 each need someone to do the work for them? Isn’t that what they’re being elected to do and being paid to do?

    EDITOR NOTE–I believe those who advocate the “manager” plan assume there will be MORE representatives, but they will be part timers like a city council. That is what I discussed in the note with Boise Cynic. No one wants 3 commsihes at the high pay level AND a professional.

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