Caldwell GUARDIAN editor Paul Alldredge has been working tirelessly to shed light on the excesses and deceptive activities of urban renewal agencies in Canyon County. In his latest effort he obtained the check register of the Caldwell Urban Renewal Agency which reveals a pattern of abuse and deception. This report will draw attention of law enforcement authorities as well as lawmakers currently considering a “reform” of urban renewal law.
By PAUL ALLDREDGE, editor Caldwell GUARDIAN
With DAVID R. FRAZIER, editor Boise GUARDIAN
By any standard, we feel the personal use of public money by local officials is wrong, yet records show a repeated pattern of abuse of Caldwel urban renewal funds over the past five years. Some of the more egregious examples we found include:
–September 2005 payment to the YMCA for a family membership in the name of Mayor Garret Nancolas and his wife…$880.
–February 2007 payment to the YMCA for the membership of Leona Fouts, an urban renewal board member…$507
–January 2008 “half memberships” to the YMCA in the names of Mayor Nancolas, board chairman Eljay Waite (who is also Caldwell city finance director), and Fouts…$800
In addition to funding private personal memberships to the YMCA for the Urban Elite, the Caldwell agency has repeatedly paid for private memberships for J.R. Simplot employees, local government workers, and school district employees—all with tax money diverted from local governments. The total payments from the city to the YMCA is in the millions of dollars, including many tens of thousands of dollars in membership fees for select groups in the community.
Other examples of questionable use of funds include “relocation allowances” to businesses that never actually relocated. Our favorite example is payment of $20,000 to an “adult toy store” called SINSATIONS. The store never reopened or relocated. We have no word on the ultimate fate of the assorted dildos and “maritial aids,” but those things are apparently costly to move. A sheriff’s crime lab now sits on the land.
The owner of one downtown Caldwell property purchased by the Urban Renewal Agency was paid an additional $129,000 in add-on fees. The various checks were for “Business discontinuation, catalyst project site, liability release, relocation, and a site vacation fee”. It appears to the GUARDIANS these additional fees–used repeatedly under various guises–are nothing more than “bumps” to purchase prices over and above appraisals.
While educational funding is a question at the Idaho Legislature, it is apparently no problem in Caldwell. Urban Renewal in January 2008 ponied up $100,000 to Oregon’s Treasure Valley Community College in the form of an “expansion grant.”
A complete forensic audit is clearly in order, but there is NO ELECTED BODY to order it. Under current Idaho law, urban renewal agencies are “political orphans”…they are not part of the city, not part of the county, and not part of the state. In fact, urban renewal takes property taxes otherwise destined to local governments and schools with no appropriation of any elected officals and there is no oversight by any elected agency.
Based on what we have discovered, which is only the proverbial “tip of the iceberg,” we are calling on the Canyon County Prosecutor to investigate the Caldwell Urban Renewal Agency expenditures (mostly to the YMCA). Some expenditures are outside the “public purpose doctrine” of common law. We also realize the statute of limitations will preclude some prosecutions. Nonetheless, an audit is needed.
Rather than consider passing legislation proposed by these out of control UR agencies, the Idaho Legislature should pass a bill allowing citizens to directly elect UR board members or declare the agencies to be part of city government. Without such a move, citizens throughout the state are subject to TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION by agencies that consider themselves immune from Constitutional restraints otherwise placed on government.
The complete 26 page Urban Renewal Check Registers 2005-2009
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