Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe last week told citizens that the city has corrected âalmost everythingâ recommended by the authors of a forensic audit of the cityâs finances, including updating the cityâs personnel policy. He said the audit, which covered the years 2009 through 2011, will save the city about $60,000 a year in the long term due to the corrective actions his administration has taken.
Briscoeâs comments came in response to a question during a packed meeting on Thursday, Dec. 6, when he and City Council members were placed in the hot seat as city residents fired off critical questions about the audit, which cost the city nearly $285,000.
Cris Thiessen, a city resident, asked Briscoe what corrective action the city has taken to protect its taxpayersâ money.
âWe already have done it and, yes, we are doing it,â Briscoe said. âYes, Cris, I am here and Iâm doing my job.â
During the discussion, tensions were high on both sides of the council membersâ desk, and Briscoe employed frequent gavel tapping to keep the conversation orderly.
The audit was commissioned by Mayor Dewayne Briscoeâs administration in April, but the results werenât available to the public until late last month. A summary report on the audit was received by the council in August and was releasedâin partâto the Idaho Mountain Express on Nov. 27 via the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorneyâs Office. Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas had subpoenaed the report and its supporting documents in late August as part of a criminal investigation of possible misuse of public funds by city employees.
Thomas informed Briscoe on Nov. 21 that he will not file criminal charges against past or present city employees due to insufficient evidence. However, Thomas called city management âlaxâ during former Mayor Wayne Willichâs administration. He said managers demonstrated âapparent conflicts of interestâ and a failure to follow stated city policies and procedures. Briscoe edged out Willich by 22 votes in November 2011. During Willichâs tenure as mayor, Briscoe was council president.
âI hope that we will learn from this,â Thiessen said at the meeting, âPeople working for the city need to be monitoredâthey canât be left alone.â
Sun Valley resident Paul Connolly demanded that the city release parts of the report not made public by Thomas.
âFor around $300,000, that information must be provided to the citizens,â he said.
Kirtlan Naylor, a Boise attorney who provides special, forensic audit-related legal counsel to the city, said the reason that the council has been legally advised not to produce the documents is because they include personnel matters. However, he said any citizen can submit a public records request with the Prosecuting Attorneyâs Office to obtain the full report.
âThat answer is not satisfactory,â Connolly said.
The Idaho Mountain Express is currently discussing the release of additional documents with Thomas.
âWe may not have been able to satisfy our citizensâ concerns on releasing all the documents, but at least they got an explanation from [Naylor] as to what the city could legally release to the public without threat of lawsuits,â Briscoe said after the meeting.
Briscoe said at the meeting that Naylorâs services have cost the city $121,000.
Councilman Franz Suhadolnik said at the meeting that he has gone through the audit report âquite thoroughlyâ and has added up the money âwastedâ by the previous administration, including alarmingly large Atkinsonsâ Markets and Perryâs restaurant bills, double-dipping of payment for the same hours worked and misuse of city credit and gas cards, among other âinappropriateâ expenses.
âSuppose that had gone on another four years,â he said.
Dave Wilson, a resident and former mayor, said the council has ultimate authority over the expenditure of city money and any misuse of public funds is the councilâs responsibility to prevent. He said Briscoe, council President Bob Youngman and Councilman Nils Ribi were all on the council during Willichâs administration.
âTo stand before us and say the council is responsible is irresponsible,â Briscoe said. âThe issues discovered were far beyond the responsibility of the council. The council did not have the authority or responsibility.â
Wilson said he disagreed.
Peggy Tierney, a Sun Valley resident, said she is âembarrassedâ by the negative publicity that the city has received over the past year. She said that in a private company, the buck stops with the CEO and in the nation, the buck stops with the president. In Sun Valley, she said, the buck should stop with Briscoe as far as maintaining the cityâs image.
âIâm ashamed of the city,â she said. âTo demean the character of [the people mentioned in the forensic audit report] is really whatâs upset your citizens. I donât like the idea that youâre throwing the responsibility away.â
Mayor to âreviewâ Police Department
Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe said Thursday that, following an extensive restructuring of the cityâs fire departmentâincluding the September resignation of longtime former Fire Chief Jeff Carnesâhe will now be placing the cityâs police department under inspection.
âMy review and reorganization of the Fire Department is essentially complete,â Briscoe said. âIâm now doing a review of the Police Department.
Last week, Briscoe said he was âdisappointedâ by the âlack of depthâ of a Police Department investigation of apparent break-ins at the cityâs Elkhorn Fire Station on two occasions between February and April, allegedly resulting in the loss of city files that Briscoe said would have been examined in a forensic audit. Briscoe said the Police Departmentâs follow-up on clues as to who might have staged the raid was âinadequate.â
âWhen we do an investigation, I think we do a thorough job,â Sun Valley Police Chief Cam Daggett said in response. âIâve never had a mayor be disappointed before.â
In a Thursday email to the Idaho Mountain Express, Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas vouched for the Sun Valley police.
âI believe they provide competent and thorough criminal investigations in the cases that have been forwarded to my office,â Thomas stated. âThey are responsive to requests for additional information and are generally well prepared for court hearings. Â Chief Daggett has established a very professional law enforcement organization in the Sun Valley Police Department.â
Brennan Rego: email@example.com