County Land Purchase Violated Idaho Law

Public records obtained by the GUARDIAN indicate the Ada County purchase of a foothills subdivision May 8 was contrary to Idaho Code 31-807 which mandates an appraisal by a LICENSED appraiser must be made prior to purchase.

The applicable law states: “…but no purchase of real property must be made unless the value of the same has been previously estimated by a real estate appraiser licensed to appraise real property in the state of Idaho pursuant to the provisions of chapter 41, title 54,…”

County officials were quietly checking out the land as early as April 23. A county tax appraiser–certified to do tax appraisals, but not LICENSED as required by law–was contacted by a county lawyer regarding the legal description and value of the property commonly known as Red Hawk Subdivision.

The appraiser responded with an informal note–not a legal appraisal–saying: “I have looked (sic) reviewed the valuation on these parcels and have searched for market comparables within the North Ada County Area. From my review these parcels consist of sloping and rolling terrain, with limited access. From the market research that I have compiled, I have observed a comparables range of $1000 to $5000 per acre with variances depending primarily on access and overall site usability. Please let me know if you need any other information.”

Despite this activity two weeks prior to the May 8 meeting, the commishes made a last minute amendment to the agenda, met in a secret session and then voted publicly to authorize the legal staff to bid at the sheriff’s sale a mere two hours later. The 258 acre parcel was purchased by the county for $240,000. We see no justification for the secret executive session since the land was being offered for sale at a public sheriff’s auction and public knowledge of the county’s interest wouldn’t affect the auction price.

The county made no declaration of public need or public purpose prior to the acquisition. Commish Sharon Ullman told the Idaho statesman they were protecting the interest of the taxpayers with the purchase because the owner owed back taxes and legal fees. That logic simply doesn’t wash because liens placed on the property by the county would satisfy any back taxes or legal fees–there was no need to purchase the land and remove it from the tax rolls.

They may have gotten a good deal, but the deal was outside the law and we see a scramble afoot to cover their tracks.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Where was county attorney in advising the BOOC about the statutory requirement for an appraisal that was required under 31-807? Seems that the county attorney(s) should know the statutory requirement before the purchase of any property.

  2. Jonathan Dough
    May 16, 2012, 11:33 am

    Really? Dave, REALLY?? What good doeas it do to kick a dog when it’s down?

    EDITOR NOTE–The documents were requested last week prior to the election.

  3. Jonathan D. Illegal is still illegal. This issue is still fresh and developing.

    My guess is that Ada County will get the Foothills Fund to purchase this much to the pains of Dave Bieter.

  4. Jonathan–I take offense at your inference that Sharon is a dog. She is a human being with feelings.

    Guardian–shame on you for suggesting that laws should limit the visionary actions of our elected betters.

  5. Jonathan,

    It’s never too late to correct wrongs. BG’s post wasn’t merely about Commish Ullman, but about the county’s practices. I for one appreciate the update, and look forward to continuing coverage of the Dynamis deal as it unfolds.

    KTA, Ada County Taxpayer/Journalist

  6. Jonathan, you don’t seem to understand the bigger issue. We the citizens are required to comply with the laws, no execeptions. When does government get to decide which laws they comply, or just ignore? The county attorney who approved the BOCC to purchase the land without an appraisal should be disbarred.

  7. The states of Idaho seem to just do whatever they want. Forget the Constitution, set rules/codes. Their justice system operates the misdemeanor probation services aginst the Constitution, pass laws and city ordinances without approval from the people of Idaho. Yet in all their propaganda, through the news media, they claim Idaho to be A UTOPIA??? Idaho’s great, the law makers, police and others involved in running the inner system are a sad joke. Two words they don’t know, and surely can’t spell–responsibility and accountability

  8. Communism was a good idea, until they introduced corruption, socialism was a good idea, except for corruption, and capitalism will fail, due to corruption… in time people, in due time, like Rome like Egypt (twice), like Germany and so many others, we too will have our turn on the chopping block and our “leaders” here in Idaho seem to be well on track to that ultimate goal.

  9. Dave are you willing to file a formal complaint so the County Prosecutor will have to address the issue or conflict it out to another prosecutor? I don’t think you would get blown off based on your status and tenacity.

    I appreciate your bringing many of these issues to light.

  10. Paul M, problem is and the elected officals know this, I don’t believe there are any sanctions for direct violation of the statute. Laws are only for the taxpayer, not elected officals.

  11. I would like to know where elected officials buy their mattresses.

    All we hear is city and county governments are broke and they have the uncanny ability to pull gobs of cash out of thin air or their mattresses.

    I would like to see an accounting of all their squirreled away cash.

  12. Where is the Attorney General????
    May 16, 2012, 8:47 pm

    Dave, it is no surprise that the “deal was outside the law and we see a scramble afoot to cover their tracks.” This is how the Ada County Commissioners have operated for years, while made up of Tilman, Yzaguirre and Ullman, and continuing while Yzaguirre and Ullman. Behind the scenes is the defacto County Manager Rich Wright doing all the media and other maneuvering needed to cover tracks. Unfortunately, the county attorneys support everything they are told to find support for because they are afraid to stand up for themselves. This is sad, as the very reason there is a separate elected official for the prosecutor’s office is to have a division of power and a system of checks and balances. But the way things operate in practice, anything the commissioners demand, the commissioners get. Legal or illegal. At their behest, their attorneys find a way to make it appear to be legal.

    I echo Paul M’s request for a formal complaint so an investigation can be commenced by the AG into this recent land purchase, into what went on with misdemeanor probation, into the Dynamis illegally arranged contract and violations of open meeting laws, and the fact that they have been running a County Manager system of government since Ullman came on board in 09, and that, too, is illegal.

    Thanks for all you have done for Ada County, Dave, to bring these things to light.

    EDITOR NOTE–You have a sound understanding of the situation. Several factors come into play.
    –First, the prosecutor properly sees the commishes as his “client.” The client tells the attorney what they want to do and seeks advice on how best to do it. The advice is for the client–not the citizens, hence secret executive sessions.
    –Second, under Idaho law the only way the AG can come in is by invitation of the prosecutor.
    –Third, to file a complaint one has to have “standing” which requires a “unique injury.” In the case of the land deal, I would suffer the same damages as any other citizen and it would not be unique or constitute “standing.” Mr. Wood, who was outbid by the county attorney, would have a better chance of having a case heard because he has a unique injury.
    –Fourth, as a reader noted, there is no sanction or penalty for breaking the law. It says they have to get an appraisal from a licensed appraiser, but there is no penalty, fine, or jail time if they don’t do it. The defense is, “Our lawyer told us it is OK,” AND of course the lawyer is the prosecutor who is the only one who can file charges or invite the AG to investigate.

  13. Brian Vermillion
    May 16, 2012, 9:31 pm

    Why can’t the purchase be declared illegal then and voided?

    EDITOR NOTE–Back to the same old problem. The prosecutor as legal counsel for the Commishes is the one to do that, but his office gave the advice–and even did the bidding–to make the purchase. As we see it, only Wood is in a position to file suit.

  14. All this lawyer talk of loop holes and back door shenanigans is disgusting, This land grab, (along with so many other things that Idaho politicians do) is wrong, we know it is wrong, they know it is wrong, and the justification of their actions through legal mumbo jumbo is nothing more than facilitating their ability to keep doing these types of things. Lets hold them accountable and fire them for their misdeeds

  15. So was Mayor Beiter or former Councilman Shealy there? It sounds like they County learned from the City of Boise. 🙂

  16. Follow up to Where is the Attorney General
    May 17, 2012, 12:30 pm

    Dave, as a follow up, I would add that while there are separate elected officials in place, such as Assessor, Treasurer, Sheriff, Prosecutor, and the Commissioners have no say over how they run their departments, the Commissioners CONTROL THEIR BUDGETS. I think the legislature should change things so each elected official can make their own budgetary decisions. How can a Prosecutor (or Assessor or Sheriff) be asked to be up front, honest, disagree when necessary and have constructive conflict with the Commissioners, when it is those very Commissioners who will decide if they get $1 or $100 in the next fiscal year? County structure is inherently without appropriate freedoms to enable true checks and balances.

  17. I tend to think they all know better but in the absence of a challenge or consequences they have the attitude…It’s easier to beg forgiveness than it is to ask permission. I keep asking myself when some of these elected officials are going to do the “perp walk” for some of the illegal stuff they pull off. They are all sworn to uphold the law and the constitution.

    Meanwhile, we all get to see Roger Clements on the hot seat for something that happened a decade ago, is costing tons of taxpayer cash to prosecute and is just nuts from my perspective.

  18. Then these same elected officials, republican and democrat wonder why there is a TEA PARTY. When they raise their hand to uphold the constitution and laws, they lose their ethics. Biggest issue, they just take too much of our money, then complain they don’t have enough. Reduce overall tax collections, then they won’t have the money to commit illegal acts.

  19. Dave, you are correct about what I.C. 31-807 says. However, check out Evans v. Power County, 50 Idaho 690 (1931). It seems to create an exception to the statute for execution sales. Without knowing all the details of both sales its hard to say whether it is directly on point, but I’d bet it is the legal authority the county relied upon.

    EDITOR NOTE–Thanks counselor! We suspect they are looking for a “fig leaf” to cover their vitals, but since this was a not a county transaction–it was between a lender and a debtor–we doubt it would apply. But now the county can use your free research. 🙂

  20. Group think pressure is so strong in this state that even women elected to various offices, originally able to think independently, succumb to it–like Ullman did.
    The only exception: Nicole.

  21. Davis, I think they all lose their ethics and honesty once sworn into office.

  22. Davis–
    Nicole did succumb, by quitting. Read her letter about not seeking state re-election, 3rd paragragh, she is quitting because it is just too hard. She quits, cites partisan politics, then now seeks federal elected office. Does she think there is less partisan politics or stress at the national level? If she could not hack it anymore at the state level, why should I think she can in the major leagues? She will acomplish nothing by loosing in a landslide against Simpson, staying in the state senate she may have been able to do something. My humble opinion……

  23. Has anybody contacted the original (and still) land owners of that parcel? The Brush family was not paid and still retains the #1 lean holder spot.

    EDITOR NOTE–Shane, we will post your comment, but taxes were #1 and we were told the bank was next in line. If you have more data, please share sources.

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