Last fall, the Ada County Highway District used its official website to link to a private website advocating in favor of a ballot measure supporting passage of increased vehicle fees which exempting trucks over 8,000 lbs.
Several citizens complained to Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennets who referred the matter to Grant Loebs, the Twin Falls County attorney who acted as special prosecutor. The allegations were investigated by an Ada County Sheriff’s detective on behalf of Loebs.
Allegations were centered around the use of public assets, staff, etc. to advocate on behalf of a ballot measure (the website link). There was also a complaint that ACHD staff had worked with the political action committee (PAC) with proofreading and other minor clerical acts.
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
Prosecutor Loebs spent nearly five months on the case and ultimately wrote a letter to the ACHD about “possible violations” of the “Integrity in Government Law.”
In the letter, Loebs said in part, “On July 26, 2018, Ada County Highway District Development Services Manager Gary Inselman-at the direction of General Counsel Steven Price-while engaged in his capacity with ACHD added language to and provided edits for the pro-Measure website, “citizens4bettertransportation.com.” The sole purpose of this website appears to have been to advocate for the Measure. I believe this violates the letter of 74-604 (1) and 74-604 (2), and certainly the spirit of the law…”
He went on to offer a deal which included admitting the civil violation and essentially promising to train the staff and not do it again. Bottom line, no fine, no trial.
ACHD through its attorney at Holland & Hart denied Loebs charges and refused in a letter to accept the offer outlined in his letter.
WHERE DOES IT STAND?
Loebs told the GUARDIAN he cannot justify a costly court battle which could reach the “tens of thousands of dollars,” when the ultimate penalty is a $200 civil fine. Citizens would have been forced to pay for the prosecution as well as the defense. He does not plan to prosecute the matter further.
To insure more advertising-free Boise Guardian news, please consider financial support.