Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak finds himself in a big financial mess with personal debts overwhelming his ability to repay and a murky agreement with the city of Nampa to provide private prosecutor legal services through his public Canyon County elected job.
The Nampa-Canyon-Bujak deal has caught the attention of the legal community–both public and private– and most of the lawyers the GUARDIAN has contacted tend to agree the idea of an elected official making a profit from his official position is simply not “clean.” Like EVERYTHING with the law, there is disagreement over whether or not it is legal.
We see this as just another money grubbing scheme on the part of politicos to create a “win-win” under the guise of a “public-private partnership” that saves everyone money.
Boise City “sells” police service to BSU, legal service to Meridian, and fire protection to rural Ada County. If the Firefighters had their way Boise would also sell ambulance service. Ada County is currently mulling over selling horse racing in order to sell gambling at whatever they call Les Bois Park these days.
In the Canyon County case the 2C Prosecutor appears to us to have sold a bill of goods to the Commishes that allowed him to use his county office to provide legal service to Nampa and keep some of the cash in the deal. The Commishes sent us to a private attorney for comment, but it looks like they were intending to use the Nampa funds to give raises to deputy prosecutors and allow Bujak to keep any “leftovers.”
One glaring issue for us was the plan for the county to invoice Bujak’s private firm for private (Nampa) use of county resources each month–and Bujak or his own staff would be the only ones to determine how much to invoice HIMSELF!
In fairness to Bujak we offer an explanation in his own words:
Letter from John Bujak explaining Nampa contract
Lately, some people in the community have raised questions about my contract to prosecute cases for the City of Nampa. My presentation to the County Commissioners this morning at my preliminary budget meeting was designed to answer these questions. Since very few people attended the budget meeting this morning, I am re-presenting the highlights for consideration.
For those who do not know, approximately one year ago I became the Nampa City Prosecutor. I agreed to take on the responsibilities of this position in order to benefit the City of Nampa and Canyon County. In order for me to take on these responsibilities, I had to obtain the unanimous approval of the Board of County Commissioners and also had to be formally awarded the prosecution contract by the City of Nampa through a bidding process.
At the time I bid on the contract, I assumed that the contract would be between the City of Nampa and Canyon County. The original agreement contemplated that the City of Nampa would pay Canyon County directly for prosecution services. This original agreement was flawed in that it did not comply with the law. Idaho law specifically sets forth how this type of prosecution contract is to be set up (for those who are curious, it’s Idaho Code section 31-3113). Specifically, the prosecutor is to contract with cities within his jurisdiction to prosecute non-conflicting misdemeanors and infractions with the unanimous approval of the County Commissioners. Said another way, the contract to prosecute for the cities is to be a private agreement between the cities and the prosecutor. This legal flaw was brought to light when the County Commissioners indicated they would like to use Nampa prosecution money to fund things other than prosecution, and I was faced with the challenge of making sure Nampa money was being spent as intended. I was tuned in to this issue because, during the bidding process, Nampa expressed concerns about the County doing its prosecution due to historical issues related to agreements between the City and the County. Ultimately, I presented the issue to the City along with a solution. The solution was that the City pay me directly for prosecution services and allow me to square up with the County directly. The City Council agreed and directed the Mayor to sign an amendment to the contract in September of 2009, which provided for payment to be made to me directly.
My arrangement with the County Commissioners was that I would be invoiced monthly for expenses related to the Nampa contract. Specifically, I asked for raises for my employees to be funded from the Nampa money. Each pay period the Clerk would invoice me for the salary di!erences and I would tender payment to the County. The Commissioners and I understood that there would be an additional sum paid to the County for “hard costs” related to the contract, but we agreed that we would determine the amount of those costs at the end of the 2010 fiscal year.
There is a misconception that I am not able to benefit personally from the Nampa contract. People point to language in a Resolution and letter which, on its face, seems to dictate that neither my Chief of Staff!\ nor I would benefit from the contract. The statements were meant to memorialize my agreement with the Commissioners that neither my Chief of Staff or I would be guaranteed salary increases to be funded by the contract. So while every other employee in the prosecutor’s offce would receive a guaranteed increase in pay, we would not.
At the beginning of this project, it was my sincere desire to put together an arrangement that would result in a win-win situation for everyone involved. I believe that this goal has been achieved for the following reasons:
- The City of Nampa saved $150,000 by accepting my bid
- The City of Nampa received the benefit of having a paperless prosecutor’s o”ce. The paperless operation has allowed for continued savings and has fostered the development of federal grant opportunities.
- The City of Nampa enjoys a fully functioning county prosecutor’s offce within its Family Justice Center. That means that the Nampa City Prosecutor’s o”ce can handle felony work for the city of Nampa.
- The County funds the entire B and C budget for the prosecutor using Nampa funds. That means that all of the “hard costs:” computers, networks, office supplies, training, litigation costs, expert witness fees, lab costs, etc . . . are paid from Nampa funds and not from the County co!ers. For fiscal year 2010, it is projected that the County will receive $276,000 in income from Nampa to cover the B and C budget.
- The County is able to better control its jail population using a “fast-track” court hearing process and Nampa City and County cases.
The bottom line is I have been able to shrink government, save the City of Nampa at least $150,000, and bring projected total income of $536,000 into the County co!ers. I was authorized to spend $4,897,473 this year. Through proper management and the benefit of the Nampa contract, the projected actual cost of running the office, both County and Nampa together is $3,976,949. That means I am projected to spend $920,524 less than I was authorized to spend this year. The most important bonus, of course, is that the quality and consistency of prosecution in Canyon County and the City of Nampa has greatly improved.
The final issue that has been raised is whether I am going to personally benefit from the contract. Through my agreement with the County Commissioners, I am able to benefit financially if there is money left over after all costs to the County have been paid. This means that if I do not spend my entire B and C budget, there will be money left over that I can do with as I please. If there is no money left over, there is no ability for me to profit. If I overspend the B and C budget, I have to make up the di!erence from my personal funds. I try my best every day to serve the people of Canyon County as their prosecutor. As I examine my contractual arrangement with Nampa, I see where I could have improved the process. I wish I would have drafted the contract perfectly the first time and that amendments were not required. I wish I would have broadcast in a greater way my agreement with the Commissioners that I could benefit pursuant to the amended contract. In the end, however, I am proud of the part I have played in improving the quality of government and saving taxpayer dollars.
In the end, there may be some disagreement about whether I should be allowed to benefit from the contract. I hope people understand that I am keeping my promise to the City of Nampa by providing prosecution services at the bid price, and I am honoring my agreement with the Commissioners by reimbursing the County for salaries and “hard costs” in an amount that fully compensates the County for any expenditures related to the Nampa contract. In the end, hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been saved, government is smaller and the community has a higher quality of prosecution. This arrangement is a win-win for everyone involved.
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