Friday, December 08, 2023

Fair board questions highlight BOCC meeting

Staff Writer | November 3, 2023 1:00 AM

After holding a moment of silence for former fair manager Darcey Smith, the Bonner County commissioners’ Tuesday meeting started out with concerned citizens asking questions about the fair board.

“If the fair board didn’t have any of their books electronically kept track of … how did the sheriff come about his report to find Mrs. Smith guilty of embezzlement if he didn’t have all the information needed to actually have an accurate audit to figure out if she had taken the funds, or who took the funds?” asked citizen Amy Lunsford.

Commissioner Luke Omodt clarified, saying that Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall had actually conducted the investigation rather than Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler.

“In regards to finding somebody guilty of theft after they are deceased, that is antithetical to the ideals of the American justice system and that is absolutely wrong,” he said.

Omodt told Lunsford her questions might be better directed toward Marshall; however, considering Wheeler’s press releases distributed on the issue, Omodt said her concerns were valid. Unfortunately, he said, she was asking questions to which he didn’t have good answers.

Another public commenter mentioned that a lot of trust has been lost in the past year regarding the fair board. Oftentimes, she said she goes to the fairgrounds during business hours only to find a sign on the office door saying the office is closed.

“My concern is — who’s keeping up with the hours?” she asked. “How do we know, as the taxpayers, that we’re actually paying people for hours they’ve worked? I’m not trying to say anybody’s doing anything mischievous, but how are we keeping up with that if we don’t even have records … for an audit?”

The public commenter said she read the statute about the fair board to find out more about their role in the county. According to that statute, she said, as a taxpayer, she is allowed to go to the fair board office at any time during regular business hours and ask to look at their books.

However, when she asked to look at the books at a fair board meeting last month, she said she was met with mixed reactions. The third party accountant who works for the fair board allegedly said she could look at whatever she liked, but the fair board held a different sentiment.

“One of the fair board members spoke up and said, ‘No, you can’t do that. You have to put in a public records request,’” she said. “So I’m a little confused why we’re not able to hold them to the statute.”

The commenter asked for transparency on what the taxpayers are really paying for regarding the fair board, as she feels they are being left in the dark right now.

Commissioner Steve Bradshaw chimed in, telling both commenters they were asking extremely good questions, but did not directly respond to either one.

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