City Government

Mayor Inappropriate On Inquest

The GUARDIAN finds it disturbing that Boise Mayor Dave Bieter has been communicating with the Coroner behind the scenes over a case involving one of Bieter’s cops.
Mayor Bieter.jpg

We agree the on-again-off-again-on-again inquest and surrounding publicity in the midst of a city election is a bungling effort at best. However, the mayor is out of line talking to the Coroner about the inquest into the police officer shooting death of 16-year-old Matthew Jones.

The Coroner sits as judge during an inquest, complete with black robe. Bieter would–or should–know better than to talk to a judge about a pending case. The same is true in the matter of an inquest which is conducted as a “judicial proceeding.” If we as citizens tolerate elected officials attempting to influence the decision to hold or cancel a pending legal proceeding, our system becomes tainted.

If Bieter had asked his City Attorney to file a motion to cancel the hearing, we would see nothing wrong–that is why we have attorneys and courts.

The mainstream media folks seem to have missed the point of the Mayor trying to influence the Coroner to just call off the inquest in favor of the report of the City ombudsman.

Bieter is well intended. He claims to have the support of the Jones family in his plea to drop the inquest. The Coroner has wisely ignored the improper request of the Mayor and set the case for later this month. We can all hope the proceeding offers more answers than questions.

Meanwhile public officials and candidates with their own interests should refrain from injecting their voices into the case. Frankly, at this point we would feel much better if the inquest were conducted by people who have not been talking it over amongst themselves for weeks if not months.

Related posting.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. The Guardian is overreacting. Mayor Bieter and Cororner Sonnenberg are both are executive branch elected officials. Were the Coroner a judicial branch official I would be concerned. He’s not. I for one want to see more communication between the officials, not less.

    Bieter is doing the right thing to try to get the Coroner to back off an inquest whiat is already damaged goods. The Coroner’s acts and omissions in his poor performance in paneling a jury and abruptly canceling the hearing until next year – no wait, it’s now November 14 – demonstrates he is not up to the task. The Coroner should listen to Bieter’s advice and stand down.

  2. If Bieter had attempted to influence the conduct of the internal investigation by BPD (which presumably has already been completed) or the Critical Incident Task Force (again presumably already complete)or the Ombudsman’s investigation (likely almost complete)I would agree completely with the Guardian. He has the power and position to shape outcomes in two of these cases. The Critical Incident group, while not accountable to Beiter, acts as a matter of course with no discretion as to whether they will or they won’t. The Coroner on the other hand has full discretion; is a statutory office with its own set of emblements of authority and does not answer to anyone but taxpayers, and then not often enough. Coroners have budgets set by County Commissioners and other than that they are autonomous. If Bieiter’s intent was honorable, then he appears to be the only one in this fiasco who can make that claim. The Coroner LIED when he gave the original bogus rationale for failing to empanel an inquest. THAT ought to be the real issue. If you can’t/won’t do something because you have to be out of town and wish not to break up the process….it’s easy enough to state that and I think for the most part folks understand. But that reason was offered up when he and Ada Prosecutor Greg Bower thought there was no chance of the jury questionnaires being made public. I frankly have a newfound appreciation for Beiter for trying to do the right thing. The Coroner was evidently unmoved by the righteous plea of the Mayor. That is Sonnenberg’s prerogative and always was. Beiter knew that going in. Had he approached someone without that prerogative, I would be the first to cry foul. Someone needs to be concerned about the family in all of this. It clearly is not former acting police chief Tibbs with his caustic campaign ads or the Coroner who tried to actually paint them causal to the delay. Sometimes someone has to step forward, be bold and attempt to inject reason into the otherwise insane. My thought is that’s all Beiter attempted to do. He then came forward and disclosed his appeal, however futile. I have to actually give him a hat’s off for the effort.

  3. Jill Kuraitis
    Nov 7, 2005, 5:55 pm

    I saw Mayor Bieter’s action as his effort to right a wrong. To me it was the opposite of a political move; it was a simple way to try to reverse a dishonorable act.

    Bieter doesn’t tend to think “politically”. If he did, the PR out of City Hall would be a heckuva lot better.

  4. I sure hope that the election tomorrow night doesn’t interrupt “The Amazing Race” on channel 2 (8 cable). This is a very exciting show. Better race than the election is going to be!

  5. Average Guy
    Nov 19, 2005, 8:38 pm

    Since when does a victim’s family get to decide what criminal, or other, legal investigations will occur? I fully sympathize with the family’s efforts and desire to put things to rest. However, it is not standard procedure to let, potential witnesses and possible suspects, decide what is, or is not, going to be investigated.
    I’m not at all insinuating that this family had anything to do with causing their son’s death, but if this case warrants further legitimate investigation then it should be performed.
    A devious mind can think up all kinds of scenarios that could link a family member to wanting another family member dead. And there are just as many devious ways to cause someone’s death as there are sick reasons to desire the death of the family member.
    Again, no disrespect intended towards this family, but they nor the mayor should have any influence on what needs to be legitimately investigated.

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