Ada Commishes Ignore Constitution

An important–and overlooked–Ada County Commissioner campaign issue is the reluctance of the commission to uphold the Idaho constitution’s article VIII, sec 3 which requires a 2/3 vote of citizens for long term debt.

Two issues face the county at present and both are really STATE issues.

#1 The coroner has run out of space. The problem is Ada has deals with at least 25 counties to do their autopsies. The excuse to breathe life into the business of death is the fees charged to other counties help pay for forensic pathologists. It is obvious the extra bodies are forcing an expansion of the facilities.

We need a statewide office of MEDICAL EXAMINER. It is not the place of Ada to provide forensic investigators for the rest of the state.

#2 Ada jail is over capacity and “failing inspections.” Again the problem is failure of the state of Idaho to build adequate penal facilities. The Idaho Department of Corrections forces the crowding of the county jail by leaving convicted felons in the county jails. The state does not even pay the actual costs of housing state prisoners. Ada County shouldn’t subsidize the state.

Here’s where it gets complicated. Instead of going to the voters and seeking permission to go into debt for what they claim are needed facilities, the plan by the current commishes is to go around the mandate of a 2/3 vote with a scheme called “certificates of participation.” They are really bonds and are secured by future lease payments. They create an obligation of future elected bodies who would face foreclosure and loss of the public asset in the event of non-appropriation.

The Boise law firm of Hawley Troxel routinely sells the scheme to local governments in Idaho in their role as “bond counsel.” The idea is to eliminate any chance of voters turning down the long term debt. In short, the local politicos don’t trust the voters.

In the case of the Ada coroner, they plan to launder the financing through the IDAHO HEALTH FACILITIES AUTHORITY which legally can issue bonds and lease the facility back to the county. It is questionable whether or not the agency has authority to claim “health” when it comes to dead bodies.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. As always – excellent reporting on issues that would never otherwise see the light of day! Sad that elected officials, who should not only accept -but embrace their obligation to follow the “rules” (Constitution) would have the gall to search out, and contrive ways to circumvent them. Speaks volumes about their integrity, their respect (or lack thereof) for the voters they presumably serve, and the state constitution.

  2. Thanks for the interesting report, Mr. Guardian. (Doing the job that the local ‘news media’ are either unable or unwilling to do.)

    I occasionally bicycle past the coroner’s building, out by the tank farm. There are a couple “reefer trailers” alongside; I can’t help but wonder about their usage. (Do the Ada County stiffs get in-house lodging, while the out-of-county guests are relegated to the trailers? And, are they used for body storage this week, and hauling ice cream next week?)

    Maybe a component of the problem is our amazing incarceration rate. In Idaho, 734 of every 100,000 people are behind bars. (Slightly higher than the entire USA, which is 698 per 100K. And WAY above most of the other developed countries. Canada – 114. UK – 139. Denmark – 59. Source – Do we really have that many bad guys? Is there a chance that we’d be better off if we let a few of ’em loose? (Not hardened violent criminals… but maybe those who were smoking demon reefer, or who tore the tags off their mattress.)

    I’m TOTALLY in agreement about our “public servants'” creativity in finding work-arounds to citizen approval. They’ve raised it to an art form!

  3. Steve, we need to lock up those we are afraid of, not those we are mad at. And local media are too busy reporting weather snd hyping their apps and personalities to report real news.

  4. Western Guy
    Oct 5, 2020, 6:50 pm

    A local public college has also used the Certificates of Partivpcipation scam. Guess who their outside legal/financial counsel is?

  5. Concerned Neighbor
    Oct 6, 2020, 6:28 am

    Ada always seems to have some financial scam going like this. Can’t these be taken to court to be ruled invalid? Who would do so?
    Why can’t the Ada coroner also charge for the space? Seems like they are subsidizing others.
    Incarceration… what about more home confinement and electronic monitoring? Community service? Tents in the desert? Jail food replaced with boiled potatoes 3 meals a day (and 1 multivitamin)? 666 plan – 6 hours automated online education followed by 6 hours work, 6 days a week. Laws have to be enforced and penalties dealt in a way that the perpetrator will not offend again, but in less expensive ways than today.

  6. Alternative Finanacing
    Oct 6, 2020, 9:42 am

    Thanks for shining some light on this trickery.

    The mega library the the City of Boise seeks to build had also sought to consider such “creative” or alternative methods of financing to work around the voters approval.

  7. David Moore
    Oct 6, 2020, 10:03 am

    You know if in fact expansion is inevitable, Ada county owns some unused property already at Expo Idaho. Just a thought

  8. chicago sam
    Oct 6, 2020, 12:18 pm

    Why bother with long term debt such as bonds when with a simple majority vote by the county commissioners an annual appropriation lease structure with no upper limit can be passed. Leaseing is the way to go and forget those hard to pass bond issues.

  9. Less people in jail & prison for petty cases helps one problem.
    Proven- a better investment in education equals less criminals.

    “So maybe if we underpaid politicians and overpaid teachers, there would be smarter people in Idaho and less dumb laws and dumb inmates.”

    Other state supreme courts also say the COP is acceptable financing. NOBODY objects to a regular lease.

    This creative financing (COP) is just leasing with a committed intermediary.

    Perhaps the 2/3 requirement is the unnecessary piece.

    Not taking on debt based on the idea of ‘not making future obligations’ is pretty weak compared to “delayed maintenance” and “lack of action” indeed creates a future obligation as well. 6 or a half-dozen?

    Municipalities are now considering bonds and COPs for financing police brutality settlements- now running at 10-40 million settlements– when insurance doesn’t cover it, how does a city pay for that? So who is really paying for frequent police negligence?

    A state-wide medical examiner falls in line with the idea of economy of scale, and efficiency.
    It is also occurring with Idaho death sentence cases. Ada and the state providing counsel to outside counties without adequate resources.

    The same can be applied to MANY govt actions. Why stop at the medical examiner?

    Then apply that from states to the federal level. Where do we want the control?

    plus looking at the map, I thought it’s odd there is a railroad spur going right up to the coroner’s office- it’s a dead-end though.

  10. Julie Hulvey
    Oct 6, 2020, 8:14 pm

    I think it is a measurable question.

    Gather the data. Then, if we need to put more county prisoners in the pen, do it. It appears in the report that it should have been done. The strategy explained may be one of hoping criminality will reduce, but it will not.

    Who are the prison directors, the jail directors, and who do they report to? Who are the accountants?

    Who are the prisoners related to?

    EDITOR NOTE–The sheriff runs the jail and the Idaho Dept. of Corrections is slow to pick up convicted felons which includes IDOC inmates who violate their parole and await return to the state pen.

  11. Idaho has low crime says a few GOP politicos I have talked with. Some seeking re-election, and others their first term. Oddly enough we lock up more than the average on a yearly basis. Seems something is not right.

    Idaho should have regional facilities for autopsies. One for each of the H & W districts.

    $44-Million for this new pod. That’s 44-million better spent on schools, low-income housing, job assistance, etc.

    If there is an urge to lock someone up let’s start with the politicos and the bankers and lawyers who thought of this scheme.

    BTW, What inspection did you fail Ada Sheriff? Why did you fail this inspection, poor training, poor budgeting, maybe poor administration that includes gross incompetence and dishonesty. Since you are always using the term failed inspection without providing specifics maybe your just trying to scare the taxpayer. Sadly you are not alone though Canyon County has the same problem with their jail.

  12. Easterner, it seems a discussion like this pops up every so often. Don’t put petty criminals in jail. That begs to be asked, who decides what a petty criminal is. Maybe a tribunal or panel of five individuals instead of a judge / jury. I don’t have the answer but breaking the law should have consequences.

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