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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of December 11 - 17, 2002

Opinion Column

In Boise, a slick mayor and naïve police chief

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

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.

What poor 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 newspapers.

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.

The unseemly 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 leave.

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.

Meanwhile, there 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.

Being a 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 city politicians.


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