Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Bring good sense back to Ketchum

Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon and his inexperienced new city attorney didn?t do enough homework before they launched their ?conflict of interest? crusade against City Councilman Randy Hall.

The crusade, which has soured the air in City Hall, is misguided and growing more distasteful by the day.

While it?s clear the mayor doesn?t like Hall much, the crusade is a kind of politics this city doesn?t need.

Instead of calling Hall out for a face-off, the mayor should have asked him to join him in a joint effort to bring clarity to the murky laws so common in Idaho.

The first salvo?an attorney general?s opinion?didn?t hit the mark. Salvo number two?asking the Blaine County Prosecutor to prosecute Hall for being a volunteer fireman as well as a councilman?hit a wall of silence.

Unsatisfied, last Friday the mayor convened a closed session of the City Council that violated the Idaho Open Meeting Law?s requirement that the public be provided with 24 hours advance notice. Then, he left the meeting, which was attended by three members of the council. Hall was not present.

Then, city council members made a deal with the city?s insurance agency in which the agency will seek a declaratory judgment from the courts on Hall?s status. They did this even though Idaho law says actions taken at an illegal meeting will be null and void.

We predict the dash to court will end as unsatisfactorily as the first two.

It?s likely that the question about Hall?s two positions ultimately will be answered with legislation, not by the courts.

Had the mayor and the city attorney done their homework, they would have learned that in small towns all over the nation council members are often firefighters, too.

Perhaps they would not have cried ?Foul!? so fast had they known that the state of Washington had already answered the conflict question?with legislation, not lawsuits.

In 1993, Washington enacted a law that declared that city council members may serve as volunteer firefighters, reserve police officers or volunteer ambulance personnel if authorized by a two-thirds vote of the council.

In Washington communities of Ketchum?s size, city council members also may hold a city job as long as they do not earn more than $18,000 a year from the job.

How sensible. How pragmatic. How unlike Ketchum.

Ketchum should suspend its dash to court and work with the Association of Idaho Cities to end the confusion in state law by writing legislation that will bring Washington?s good sense to Idaho?s small towns.

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