Thursday, March 30, 2023

Transparency important in building trust

by LUKE OMODT Contributing Writer
| March 9, 2023 1:00 AM

Transparency, emergency management and local government spending are the three issues for the first of a hopefully bi-monthly series of articles about Bonner County government. As a newly elected county commissioner, I have inherited both the blessings and challenges left by my predecessors.

“Open and honest government is fundamental to a free society. The Idaho Legislature formalized our state’s commitment to open government by enacting the Idaho Open Meeting Law in 1974. The Open Meeting Law codifies a simple, but fundamental, Idaho value: The public’s business ought to be done in public.” — Attorney General Raul Labrador.

Transparency in how Bonner County operates financially, procedurally and ethically is important to building trust in local government. Executive sessions are only allowed for specific reasons found in Idaho Code §74-206. The attorney general publishes the Idaho Open Meeting Law Manual which can be found at and explains the rules and procedures that the Board of County Commissioners uses in conducting our business.

In the coming months, Bonner County’s website is going to receive a facelift. We are going to increase our transparency by providing greater access to meeting packets electronically, increase self-service options and simplify our website so it is easier to navigate for the general public and staff.

The Feb. 3 train derailment in East Lebanon, Ohio, should be a wake-up call for all local governments across the United States. Here in Bonner County, we have a published Emergency Operation Plan that addresses the five phases of emergency management: prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery. This plan conforms to the National Incident Management System. Residents of Bonner County can read our plan on our website under the Emergency Management.

Bonner County government is responsible for the comprehensive management of emergencies to protect life and property from the effects of hazardous events. On the second Thursday of every month, the Local Emergency Planning Committee, LEPC, meets in the Bonner County Emergency Operations Center on the first floor of the Bonner County Administration Building. These are open meetings designed to plan and coordinate between local government, first responders (law enforcement, fire, EMS), business and industry, as well as faith-based groups to prepare for local emergencies.

How and where does Bonner County spend the money entrusted to us by local taxpayers? I believe that tax dollars collected here in Bonner County should be spent locally as much as possible. Budget season is quickly approaching and we are sharpening our pencils in preparation. There is a lot to learn and I am focused on providing Bonner County the statutory services required with the most efficient use of your dollars.

The Idaho Association of Counties was formed in 1976 and is dedicated to the improvement of county government. I am the District 1 Legislative Committee member. Every week during the legislative session the committee meets to analyze and support or oppose proposed legislation regarding county government. 

The words of James Madison in Federalist Paper #51, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary” are as true today as they were in 1788. Local government involves building relationships and working together to meet the needs of Bonner County today while preparing for tomorrow. This job is challenging but incredibly rewarding. 

Prior to taking the office of Bonner County commissioner, I taught American Government. In my classroom, politics was defined as who gets what, where and when. Teaching about how our government works versus working in government are two very different matters.

If you have questions or concerns please reach out to me at; attend a meeting and bring a friend. Bonner County is our home.

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