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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.
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For the week of February 19 - 25, 2003

Opinion Column

Tough times for
city politicians

Commentary by PAT MURPHY


Headlines in recent months havenít been kind to city politicians in Idaho.

Two mayors resigned, another mayor was sued twice, and a city council president was caught playing with another politicianís name on the Internet.

Topping the list was the resignation of Boise Mayor Brent Coles and the announcement he was charged by the Idaho attorney general with two misdemeanors.

The resignation climaxed acts of stupidity fed by blinding self-importanceóColesí abused use of his city credit card, plus the allegation he took his wife on a junket to the Salt Lake Olympics as guests of Blue Cross, which does business with the city and footed the Colesí bills.

How come Coles got away with this? Because Boiseís ho-hum city council was asleep or incompetent, probably both, in its oversight duties. Other abuses are bound to be turned up by further investigations under way.

Then thereís Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon, whose personnel decisions involving the police department have prompted two lawsuits within 12 months. Simonís obsession with the police department seems to be linked to his unsuccessful 1992 attempt as a city councilman to fire Chief Cal Nevland, which led to Simonís ouster in an angry public recall backlash.

Last year, Simon hired an assistant police chief over well-known objections of Chief Nevland, who sued and forced the city and Simon to back down. This cost Ketchum $65,000 in restitution to the new appointee, who served only two days on the job. Half was paid by the city and half by the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program.

Then within months of settling one suit, Simon fired the departmentís private computer maintenance contractor for publicly criticizing the botched hiring decision that led to the earlier lawsuit. That led to the fired contractor filing another suit asking for $165,000 thatís now in the hands of an arbiter.

Along came Hailey Mayor Al Lindley, who resigned after his alleged proclivity for calling female city employees "sweetie" led to sexual harassment complaints. The city paid $2,500 each to two women who complained about Lindley; plus, it inaugurated a sexual harassment sensitivity training program.

Finally, Sun Valley City Council President Latham Williams was caught lifting the name of Democratic state Sen. Clint Stennett, of Ketchum, to create an Internet Web site in Stennettís name for mysterious purposes that Williams refused to explain.

Known as cybersquatting, Williamsí monkey business was doubly embarrassing because heís also the state Republican Partyís vice chairman. Sen. Stennett since has introduced legislation to make what Williams did a crime.

(Telecom funny business also mortified Virginia Republicans when state GOP executive director Edmund A. Matricardi III was indicted on federal felony charges of violating the U.S. Wiretap Act by eavesdropping on Democratic conference calls. He resigned and pleaded not guilty last week.)

Different people will find different morals in these lapses.

One that seems obvious is that these elected officials strayed from their principal obligationóto be public models of civic probity, not to chase personal impulses.

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.