When the GUARDIAN heard news reports last week that Boise City officials had entered into a settlement with property owners in the Alto Via subdivision regarding costs of demolition of houses deemed uninhabitable and a danger, we took notice.
What got our attention was the refusal of city officials to reveal how they were spending the public’s money. They had agreed to keep the settlement amount secret, according to news reports. Had the City not attempted to hide their actions from the public, we would not have been alerted, nor questioned the timing of events, or dates on documents.
We filed a public records request April 26 and within an hour received a “ten day letter,” from the city claiming the records would take longer than three days to “locate, retrieve, and review.” That delaying tactic is pretty much standard response from Boise these days.
This time both KTVB-7 and KBOI-2 television stations also filed. Our request was sent on April 26 and to our surprise by April 28 (Friday afternoon) we had the documents. They are typically cumbersome legal tomes, but a close examination raised more questions than were answered.
The 12 page “RELEASE AND SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT” was dated April 13. Boise City is the “RELEASEE” and the property owners are the “RELEASORS,” as stated in the April 13 document. Boise agreed to pay $257,500 to the releasors. The city also agreed to pay and supervise the demolition and land restoration costs which were outlined in a separate agreement with an Emmett firm. Coincidentally that cost came out to $57,500.
Here is the kicker: The release agreement was dated April 13, but The payment was issued MARCH 15 in response to a MARCH 13 invoice. In fairness, it is POSSIBLE the month on the check is in error, but the check number and subsequent checks would also have to be in error if that is true. We will gladly post a response from the City.
Several points in the agreement defy credibility. Item 8 states “…that payment made is voluntary and is not to be considered as an admission of liability on the part of Parties released. In making this settlement, the Parties intends merely to avoid litigation, specifically avoid the cost of defending this litigation further, and buy their peace.” Sadly, while it may sound absurd to pay, but not admit liability, it may be cheaper. It also is an easy way to sweep guilt (liability) under the rug.
Item 9 has Boise officials and the plaintiffs agreeing to hide their actions from public view as much as possible. “except as otherwise required by the Idaho Public Records Act or other applicable law, this Agreement, its terms and conditions, and the fact that a release and indemnity agreement was entered into by the Releasors in favor of Releasee, are confidential and this confidentiality will, at all times, be honored.”
The DOCUMENTS:Alto Via release4
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