In Boise, a slick mayor
and naïve police chief
Commentary by PAT
One need not live
in Boise to be bewildered by Police Chief Don Pierce’s troubling decision to
serve as Mayor Brent Coles’ part-time, temporary chief of staff while Coles
deals with a credit card scandal involving him that’s under investigation by
the Idaho attorney general.
This is another
of those periodic episodes in which a law enforcement professional allows
himself to be used by a politician, unable to resist the flattery of being
embraced and asked by a political boss to do a special job.
judgment: Chief Pierce seems utterly blind to how he’s being used by Mayor
Coles as a political show horse at the expense of the chief’s integrity and
independence. Boise’s mayor is under a cloud. This isn’t the first time,
either. Boiseans still talk about how the straight-laced "family
values" Coles was found sitting in his car¾before dawn¾outside the home
of a female staffer and gave two odd explanations: that (a) he was inspecting
city facilities before daylight and (b) he was helping his son deliver
The mayor’s new
troubles involve charging $1,871 on a city credit card for a night on the town
in New York City with chief of staff Gary Lyman and two female city employees,
who had been attending a conference in upstate New York.
appointment of the police chief to be his aide was conspicuously not
coincidental: after Chief Pierce conducted a cursory investigation and found no
criminal conduct in the abuse of the credit card, he suddenly was working for
Mayor Coles while the regular chief of staff and partying companion were put on
Although he has
refunded the city for the credit card bill, Mayor Coles isn’t in the clear
yet. The state attorney general is investigating the Credit Card Caper.
sits the Boise police chief¾for all appearances an approving sidekick to a
mayor who admits abusing his credit card privileges and now exploits the police
chief’s naïveté at the expense of the chief’s reputation.
Coles is clever,
obviously more so than the susceptible police chief. The mayor could’ve
enlisted the city’s traffic engineer, public works director, parks and
recreation director, human resources director or any other city executives to
fill in as part-time chief of staff for a few months.
But Mayor Coles
knows, the political slick that he is, the police chief at his side provides a
glittering aura of innocence of any wrongdoing in all he does. Put another way,
Chief Pierce’s presence in the mayor’s office is an implicit, if not
explicit, endorsement of Mayor Coles’ character and ethics.
One of Chief
Pierce’s most disturbing justifications for working in the mayor’s office
while still holding down the top police title was a statement during a press
conference that he wants to see "the city move forward" from the
credit card flap.
cheerleader and booster for the city and its mayor is not the chief’s job. His
full-time and only job is providing safety and security for Boise’s citizens
and visitors, preventing crimes if possible and apprehending the lawless.
This episode will
follow Chief Pierce in whatever he does¾the big city police chief willing to
divide his loyalty between law enforcement and working alongside a mayor being
investigated by the state’s justice department.
For citizens of
Idaho’s capital city, the concern also should be whether their police chief
henceforth will be a pushover for doing more favors for Mayor Coles and other