Intimidation and retribution are alive and well in Coeur d’Alene. Behind the pretty curtains, our community has some serious troubles that need to be swept clean.
And these problems may be bigger, deeper and dirtier than any of us have realized to date because the retaliation from the powers-that-be is much more intense than expected.
Without prior warning, Jim Brannon’s position as Executive Director at Habitat for Humanity was eliminated Wednesday, under what can only be called suspicious circumstances.
Jim is running for a seat on the CdA City Council against incumbent Mike Kennedy.
Last Wednesday evening at 5:30 marked the most important, televised candidate forum of the election season. Any triumphs or tribulations in a candidate’s performance at this forum will be re-run on Channel 19 many times each day until the election on Nov. 3rd.
So, that same Wednesday afternoon, Jim was summoned by Habitat’s chairman, Rick Shipman, to come to his US Bank office at 4:00pm, at which time Jim was handed a letter informing him his job of three and a half years had been eliminated.
The letter was given to him only 90 minutes before the televised forum.
There was no prior warning, no two week notice, no exit interview. That seems pretty cold and impersonal. Yet, the chairman of the Habitat board, Rick Shipman, told the Press that Jim was one of their “best co-workers” and the chairman found it “hard to sleep at night” after the decision. I bet.
What’s really going on here? Habitat’s board says it’s simply a fiscal decision. Their budget is down, as with all non-profits right now. The Press quotes Shipman as saying, “It’s not Jim’s fault, we’ve fallen on hard times.”
But Jim Brannon already dutifully and responsibly created contingency plan budgets last summer, just in case their end of September revenues were off in these tough economic times. The board was fully aware of the alternative budgets. Yet now, when the contingency plans should be implemented, the board suddenly decided to eliminate the top job instead. No other budget measures required.
The August minutes of the board show them praising Jim’s performance and even ready to discuss a raise, but Jim stopped them by saying any money for raises should go to his staff. What changed between August and late September? Jim announced his run for City Council against Mike Kennedy, that’s what changed.
Here’s the fishiest part: The regular meeting of the Habitat board will be on October 15th. They are paying Jim for the whole month of October, his final letter states, so why didn’t the board just wait until their regular meeting to make this decision and then give Jim a two week notice? That would be the normal, professional way to go.
Instead, they held a “special meeting” right before the candidate forum, and they handed Jim a letter 90 minutes before he was to go on TV.
Was this a political decision? Yes, I believe it was. Jim is running against Mike Kennedy. Mike Kennedy is employed full time by Steve Meyer. Mike got his job as President of InterMax Communications, a highly technical company, shortly AFTER he was elected to city council. Mike had zero background in technical communications. Steve Meyer, Mike's boss, was one of Mike's big campaign contributors.
Steve also owns Parkwood Properties which is a large real estate development company here. Steve's partner at Parkwood is Charlie Nipp. Charlie was the first and longest Chairman of LCDC, our local urban renewal agency, and he is still on the LCDC board.
Mike Kennedy's job on City Council is to oversee and supervise the LCDC. City council also votes on many land development deals. And don’t forget that the Ed. Corridor deal is coming up and Parkwood Properties specializes in constructing buildings that they lease out to government agencies (read: schools) for a pretty penny.
They need Mike on the city council! Mike needs his job with InterMax because he has 7 kids! Jim Brannon is just in the way.
The Habitat board is also heavy with bankers. And banks want to do business with LCDC because they’re the only group in town with any money these days. LCDC is slated to receive $5.2 million dollars in tax increment revenue this year, according to their own information.
So, I’m sure the political pressure is strong. The power structure in town wants no changes on the city council. They like what they’ve got.
It’s time to take action, people. It’s time to stand up and be counted as citizens who are sick and tired of this abuse of power. We need to speak out.
If you agree, please write a short letter to the editor right now and send it to Mike Patrick at the CdA Press. His email address is: email@example.com
The other important action to take control of our future, is to VOTE. And to get 10 more people to VOTE. It’s time to sweep things clean and take back our town!
Election day is Tuesday, November 3rd.