Tough times for
Commentary by PAT MURPHY
Headlines in recent months havenít been
kind to city politicians in Idaho.
Two mayors resigned, another mayor was
sued twice, and a city council president was caught playing with another
politicianís name on the Internet.
Topping the list was the resignation of
Boise Mayor Brent Coles and the announcement he was charged by the Idaho
attorney general with two misdemeanors.
The resignation climaxed acts of stupidity
fed by blinding self-importanceóColesí abused use of his city credit card, plus
the allegation he took his wife on a junket to the Salt Lake Olympics as guests
of Blue Cross, which does business with the city and footed the Colesí bills.
How come Coles got away with this? Because
Boiseís ho-hum city council was asleep or incompetent, probably both, in its
oversight duties. Other abuses are bound to be turned up by further
investigations under way.
Then thereís Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon, whose
personnel decisions involving the police department have prompted two lawsuits
within 12 months. Simonís obsession with the police department seems to be
linked to his unsuccessful 1992 attempt as a city councilman to fire Chief Cal
Nevland, which led to Simonís ouster in an angry public recall backlash.
Last year, Simon hired an assistant police
chief over well-known objections of Chief Nevland, who sued and forced the city
and Simon to back down. This cost Ketchum $65,000 in restitution to the new
appointee, who served only two days on the job. Half was paid by the city and
half by the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program.
Then within months of settling one suit,
Simon fired the departmentís private computer maintenance contractor for
publicly criticizing the botched hiring decision that led to the earlier
lawsuit. That led to the fired contractor filing another suit asking for
$165,000 thatís now in the hands of an arbiter.
Along came Hailey Mayor Al Lindley, who
resigned after his alleged proclivity for calling female city employees
"sweetie" led to sexual harassment complaints. The city paid $2,500 each to two
women who complained about Lindley; plus, it inaugurated a sexual harassment
sensitivity training program.
Finally, Sun Valley City Council President
Latham Williams was caught lifting the name of Democratic state Sen. Clint
Stennett, of Ketchum, to create an Internet Web site in Stennettís name for
mysterious purposes that Williams refused to explain.
Known as cybersquatting, Williamsí monkey
business was doubly embarrassing because heís also the state Republican Partyís
vice chairman. Sen. Stennett since has introduced legislation to make what
Williams did a crime.
(Telecom funny business also mortified
Virginia Republicans when state GOP executive director Edmund A. Matricardi III
was indicted on federal felony charges of violating the U.S. Wiretap Act by
eavesdropping on Democratic conference calls. He resigned and pleaded not guilty
Different people will find different
morals in these lapses.
One that seems obvious is that these
elected officials strayed from their principal obligationóto be public models of
civic probity, not to chase personal impulses.