Audit Of Caldwell Urban Renewal Imperative

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 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

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Steve Edgar
    Feb 17, 2010, 7:54 am

    I find it ironic that the very people appointed or elected to the small commissions such as this one turn out to be some of the biggest abusers of the public dollar. We, as a body, tend to focus on the large agencies and their budgets with such a critical eye we tend to overlook the small taxing districts. These districts very often “pad” the official’s life style and award higher than justified compensation. I say this from my own investigation of some of these smaller districts in Ada County. While this is in Canyon County, there are many that deserve audit in Ada County as well. If we can recapture all of the waste at lower levels we can stop some of the bleeding of our tax dollars.
    The Idaho Joint Legislative Oversight Committee has the power to conduct performance evaluations of ANY agency that receives tax dollars. (Title 67, chapter 4; 67-458. Definitions (2) (3)) Maybe it is time we start demanding these audits through our elected representatives on agencies which have preliminary evidence of misuse of tax dollars.
    In most cases (I would not say that in this case) the root problem is ignorance. Many of our lower elected / appointed commissioners do not receive any education on the intricacies of government service. I think our Attorney General could very simply place a training guide on his web site designed to educate newly elected/appointed commissioners to the legal limits of their positions. Many, if not all, of these agencies are governed by Idaho Code and I have personally found an agency that did not know there was a state code document governing their commission!
    Having said that, in our state where so many are so anti-government and publicly chastise the feds and their programs, we find many cases of blatant abuse of tax dollars at the local level by those who are screaming the loudest against federal spending. Ironic.

    EDITOR NOTE–This may not be 100% accurate as the code stipulates the agency being audited must be “…created by statute which has the authority to levy, collect and spend tax moneys.” UR agencies get property taxes that are DIVERTED from city,county, schools, etc., but they don’t have LEVY authority and that’s how they avoid the Idaho constitution.

  2. Dr Spiegelvogel
    Feb 17, 2010, 9:36 am

    Productive investigative reporting Paul Alldredge. Thank you.

    Another case of Idaho politicians talking like Republicans, spending like Democrats, and acting like confused LIbertarians.

  3. The discussion over coffee this morning down at CCDC? “I don’t care if you burn it, shred it, or eat it. Get rid of the paper trail!!!!”

  4. JLOC has the power the audit the agencies that divert the money. Thus, in performing such an audit, they clearly have authority to investigate those monies. It’s a matter of willpower to do it.

    EDITOR NOTE–Don’t know JLOC, but once again the problem is structure. None of the cities, counties, schools, etc. have any choice in the matter. They DO NOT divert the funds. The money comes directly from the county treasurer once the District is formed…it is not even a “pass through.”

  5. serendipity
    Feb 17, 2010, 8:39 pm

    “funds. The money comes directly from the county treasurer once the District is formed…it is not even a “pass through.”

    What a convenient and profitable SCAM!
    Only in Idaho.

  6. Let’s hope State Legislators put a proper fix on the UR laws this year and get the voters back in control. I like the Raul Labrador LiD legislation requiring voter approvals on all LID’s over $250K. This may be too low for something like UR but it has to start at some defined point where “they ask and we get to approve”.

    Oversight is sorely missing with current urban renewal law.

  7. the $250K number in the proposed legislation is simply too low to get any meaningful work done.

    yeah, the legislators are sending a message in an election year (Wayne Hoffman would be proud of so much transparency) in reaction to a certain LID concept.

    a $500K threshold is more in line with real world costs for doing local improvement projects.

  8. BG, your editor note to JamesBond has one error in it. None of the taxing districts have any choice in these situations except the Cities. The Cities are the entities creating the districts and are the only ones that have choice. All the other property tax leviers just get to deal without the revenue. The City governments continually look for the path of least resistance to the tax payer pocket.

  9. But do they taser people in their privates in 2C? Might be less corruption over there than you think.

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