The rights of citizens were advanced Friday thanks to a decision of the Idaho Supreme Court. In a nutshell THE DECISION allows a group of citizens to sue Canyon County Commishes for violating the state constitution.
The Commishes had entered into a long term debt agreement to purchase land for a law enforcement complex, but they refused to put the matter up for a bond election and in fact didn’t comply with the state code requiring them to get “judicial confirmation” the expense was justified as “ordinary and necessary.”
The ruling stated in part, “There is no logical difference between making an appropriation that is specifically prohibited by the Constitution and incurring an indebtedness or liability that is specifically prohibited by the Constitution. We therefore hold that the Plaintiffs, who are electors and taxpayers of the County, have standing to challenge whether the lease agreement violated Article VIII, § 3.”
They also said, “If this Court were to hold that taxpayers do not have standing to challenge the incurring of indebtedness or liability in violation of that specific constitutional provision, we would, in essence, be deleting that provision from the Constitution.”
A total of 10 taxpayers attempted to put the brakes on the illegal expenditure in a lawsuit, but the third district judge denied them “standing”–the right to bring the case. They appealed and the Supremes ruled unanimously to reverse the third district judge in favor of the citizens.
In a strongly worded observation the court said, “The County recognized that the lease agreement may violate Article VIII, § 3, but elected not to seek a determination of whether it did. Had it done so, the Plaintiffs could have appeared in the proceeding to raise their objections. I.C. § 7-1307.
The GUARDIAN editor previously raised legal objections in Boise when City Councilors attempted to violate the constitution and won both both court cases (police building and airport parking garage).
The Canyon County case–which should have been heard in court–along with the Boise Airport and police building cases should send a pretty clear message that local governments cannot ignore the constitution, the law, or the citizens. They can now be held accountable for their actions because citizens have access to the courts.
The matter of the illegal purchase was ruled as “moot” (dead issue for you non-library types) since the land had already been purhcased and subsequently even offered for sale.
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