Monday, June 24, 2024

Complaint claims commissioner conflict

Staff Writer | March 17, 2023 1:00 AM

A Bonner County resident has filed a complaint against Bonner County Commissioner Steve Bradshaw with the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, alleging a conflict of interest over the commission's hiring of an outside law firm.

In the complaint, Dave Bowman said Bradshaw's acceptance of donations from Davillier Law Group partners for his failed gubernatorial campaign created a conflict of interest regarding any decisions involving the law firm.

He asked the AG's Office to look into whether those contributions — and the county's subsequent engagement of the firm to create a training program — fell outside what is allowed under Idaho and federal laws.

In the complaint, Bowman asked the AG's Office whether Bradshaw used his public position as a Bonner County commissioner "for personal gain or pecuniary benefit" to help pay for his gubernatorial campaign in violation of Idaho Code.

The complaint also asked the AG's Office to determine if the actions were a conflict of interest and whether Bradshaw had neglected to disclose that conflict.

The complaint follows a controversial Feb. 14 decision by the commission to engage the firm to design and provide a training program for Open Meeting Law and parliamentary procedure training. Bradshaw and District 3 Commissioner Luke Omodt voted to approve the motion. District 2 Commissioner Asia Williams voted against it and strongly criticized the move at the meeting and the following meeting, at which the motion was rescinded.

The training is regularly provided to local governments by the AG's Office, the Idaho Association of Counties and the Bonner County Prosecutor’s Office, Bowman said in the complaint.

"In fact, there is an assistant prosecutor regularly assigned to this duty," he added. "There is no indication on the record that Davillier Law Group is especially suited to provide this type of training …"

In the complaint, Bowman questions whether the commission proved that hiring an outside law firm met requirements outlined in Idaho Code, which specifies that such actions must be necessary.

"Ironically it was an unlawful motion – to engage a law firm … to advise you on how to comply with the law," Bowman said at the mid-February meeting. "For making a priority of keeping the county out of litigation, this is an odd way of going about it."

In the complaint, Bowman asked the Attorney General's Office to look into potential ethics violations by Bradshaw in connection to both the donations and subsequent votes connected to the law firm.

Whether his failure to recuse himself is upheld by the Attorney General's Office or not, Bowman told the commissioner in mid-February that, if nothing else, the optics were bad and also failed to serve the county's residents.

"Chairman Bradshaw when you were sworn in last January, you went into great detail about how you were going to make sure that the metric for this board and decision-making was going to be lawful, not legal," Bowman said at the commission's Feb. 28 in advising the commission he'd filed the complaint. "And you pointed out the difference that legal means you comply with the letter of the law. And lawful means that you're going to make moral decisions in the eyes of God and the people. I think that from what I've seen so far, really, it's been neither. "