Ada Candidates Say NO To Legal Fees

Four of the five candidates for Ada County Commishes have told the GUARDIAN if elected they will cutoff all funding for a legal battle over an alleged open meeting law violation in June 2005.

Current Commishes Judy Peavey-Derr, Rick Yzaguirre, and Fred Tilman have been charged by the Idaho Attorney General with violating the open meeting law when they met in a secret session with Boise Councilor Vern Bisterfeldt and discussed matters which should have been open to the public.

Steve Kimball beat Peavey-Derr in the Republican primary and suggested the commishes pay the fines and stop wasting county money. “I’ll pay the darned fines just to get it over with,” he declared.

Paul Woods is running against Kimball as a Dem and he too said he would cut off any further spending for the defense attorney. Independent Sharon Ullman has long declared she would halt any further legal fees to defend the Commishes. Ullman, Kimball, and Woods are all after the seat being vacated by Peavey-Derr.
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Al Ames is running against incumbent Fred Tilman and is highly critical of the $30,000 tab that has been run up so far. “I will definitely not authorize any more funds for that case,” said Ames.

Incumbent Tilman has publicly stated there is a need for “clarification of the law” and has defended the spending for his defense.

CLARIFICATION: The outside attorney has said he would not charge to defend the appeal that has been filed, but citizens are still paying for the attorney general staff to prosecute the civil case which has a maximum fine of $150 for each offense.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Hmmm … seems like there’s potential for a dangerous precedent here: We might actually get a commish with some sense.
    Then what?

  2. Tillman should “clarify the law” to his heart’s content, on his own dime, as a private citizen, after he is removed from office.

  3. I believe that Czar Tillman and the others should pay their own legal defense if charged with a crime by the Attorney Generals Office. I would not expect the county to pay for my defense of a bad personal decision….

    EDITOR NOTE–It is a CIVIL, not a CRIMINAL matter, but we agree on who should pay.

  4. I can’t think of a better illustration of the corruption of the Derr,Yzaguirre,Tilman clique than their disregard for the law by holding ” closed meetings.” Worse than that is their show of contempt for the Citizens they are supposed to represent by making them pay for their legal fees after their breaking the law.

    My personal preference would be to see Sharon Ullman take over Derr’s seat and Al Ames get Tilman’s seat. Then we would have some real integrity and representation of the People of Ada County by our County Commissioners.

    In fairness , all the candidates including Woods and Kimball would stop tax -payer funding of the ” corrupt commishes legal cop-out.”

    EDITOR NOTE–Corruption is a bit strong, but the trio is certainly out of step with the will of the people.

  5. Anybody remember that the commishes spend about $130K a year on chief civil deputy prosecutor Ted Argyle alone to provide legal advice regarding the public meetings law? Not to mention the $120 on prosecutor Jim Dickenson, and the salaries of the other ten attorneys in the ada county civil division. Maybe we should add their salaries to the bill. Or, we could finally get a district attorney system and require commisshes to engage in training so we have some trained professionals.

  6. Yes, and Ted Argyle and Jim Dickinson are supposed to have so much expertise that they have even been paid to teach at least one outside class on Open Government in Idaho. I suspect that is the reason why the Prosecutor’s office (where Argyle and Dickinson work) claimed they had a conflict of interest and could not represent the Commissioners in the case. I suspect the “conflict” had more to do with the fact that Argyle and Dickinson know that a violation of the law occurred.

    From a piece I previously wrote:

    Two of the Commissioners, Rick Yzaguirre and Judy Peavey-Derr spent more than $550 of taxpayers’ money their very first week in office as Ada County Commissioners so that they could take a class to learn more about the Idaho Open Meeting Law and the Idaho Public Records Act.

    Former Commissioner Roger Simmons and I had refused to sign off on this unnecessary expenditure as we were about to leave office, because three of the four “experts” who were speaking at this privately-sponsored and costly seminar worked just down the hall from the Commissioners as attorneys in the Ada County Prosecutor’s Civil Division!

    In addition, the Attorney General’s office offers FREE seminars to elected officials and members of the public who want to learn more about the Idaho Open Meeting Law and the Idaho Public Records Act.

    Nonetheless, Rick and Judy took the costly all-day seminar, at Ada County taxpayers’ expense. Not only was this another example of wasted public monies, but it tells us that the Commissioners really ought to know better than to ever violate the Idaho Open Meeting Law.

    EDITOR NOTE (Disclaimer)–The GUARDIAN provides the forum for comments from all parties and makes no endorsement of candidates or their views.

  7. I am sorry I missed that previous posting, because you nailed it right on the head. I am highly skeptical of Mr. Argyle and Mr. Dickinson teaching their own clients as part of a seminar. The AG’s office not only holds training for free, but they can be consulted at anytime for an opinion by prosecuting attorneys, as can the IPAA and the IAC. The commishes didn’t use the training paid for, either didnt’ consult with the prosecutors or ignored them, and the prosecutor’s didn’t consult the AG, the IPAA or the IAC offices. You have prior experience with these attorneys, if you are again commissioner, will you require Mr. Argyle and Mr. Dickinson to get training of their own or ask the AG, IPAA or IAC for advice?

  8. Unless a second commissioner is elected who feels the same way I do, I couldn’t require anything with only my one vote. Ted Argyle and Jim Dickinson have already had training, and as I pointed out above, have even given the training, so I don’t think lack of training is the nature of the problem right now.

    There are very few reasons for discussing government business in closed meetings, and those are spelled out in the Idaho Open Meeting Law. My rule of thumb: whenever there is a question, do it in the open. For those of us who have nothing to hide, abiding by the law is easy.

    Whenever I do have a question about interpretation of the Idaho Open Meeting Law and Idaho Public Records Law, I ask the AG’s office. Bill vonTagen, head of the Intergovernmental and Fiscal Law Division, is THE preeminent expert in the state on these laws. Hopefully, the AG’s office will continue with efforts to educate the public, media and elected officials on Open Government issues.

  9. So if I read you right Sharon, “I couldn’t require anything with only my one vote,” should actually mean that unless the other commissioners don’t think the way you do, we will have more years to come of county commissioners bickering and fighting. Just like a bunch of grade school kids or should I say, like Roger and you. I don’t know which would be more embarrassing, commissioners standing their ground in something they believe to be right (right or wrong as they may be), or three commissioners fighting back and forth. Tough call!

    Also I would rather have commish’s spending $550 their first week as apposed to $30,000 in legal fees later down the road. I think we can all say that the county should get their money back, unless they truly learned something you didn’t from your FREE class.

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