Dear Newsletter Readers,
Mike Kennedy sat in his official chair at last week’s CdA City Council meeting and made two highly unprofessional statements. First he said that because Cliff Hayes, our County Clerk, was not in attendance at their meeting it was a “dereliction of duty”. That’s an extremely serious charge! Secondly, Kennedy held up two sheets of paper and claimed they were the only information sent by the County. That’s not true. Every city council person’s packet of information for that meeting contained 6 pages of information from Cliff Hayes’ office and Cliff’s staff had sent even more than that to the city.
Idaho election laws changed last January 1st, so now the City Council is no longer responsible for local elections. They simply have to record the election results in their meeting minutes. They do not have to approve or certify anything.
The city council didn’t seem to know this, or what to do, at their last meeting, so they called forward Chief City Attorney, Mike Gridley, the highest paid city employee at $125,000 per year. Mr. Gridley admitted he didn’t know what they were supposed to do either!
This video link and lots of other great information on the outrageous behavior of the council are available in a terrific article by Bill McCrory on OpenCdA.com. You can click here to read it: http://opencda.com/?p=10193#more-10193
You may all know that there were 19 voters in CdA, this election, who were given city ballots but do not live in the city. That was the mistake or the intentional action of a poll worker(s) who did not follow the mandatory new instructions of the Elections Dept. Cliff Hayes and his staff found the problem right away, identified the voters and reported all of it to the County Commissioners, the media and the public in their Canvass of the Votes Report, along with a plan to preclude its recurrence.
Now Cliff’s critics are yelling about it. They say that the 5 illegal votes from the 2009 election are far fewer, so things have not improved. That’s a bunch of bunk!
In 2009, poll workers did not even bother to record the type of ballot given to at least 57 voters. No one can know whether those voters were given a county, city or Fernan ballot, the record keeping was so lax. Other voters were told that their address is in CdA and were allowed to vote in 2009, but now, upon further review by the Elections Dept this year, it was verified they do not live within the city boundaries and were not allowed to vote this time.
None of the errors of 2009 were noticed or reported by the then Elections officials. It was only because of the Election Challenge lawsuit and the intense research done then by volunteers and this year by the Elections Dept., that the weaknesses in our system have come to light.
Cliff and his staff have improved the security and quality of our election system but, as they say, there’s more to do. I will leave you with a copy of the excellent letter Cliff Hayes sent to the CdA City Council this week. He is a professional and it shows. (Don’t miss the last two paragraphs)
Have a great week! --Mary
Mary Souza is a 24 year resident of CdA, local small business owner and former P&Z Commissioner. Her opinions are her own. To sign up for the free weekly newsletter, or access a free archive of past columns, visit www.marysouzacda.com Comments can be sent to email@example.com. Please visit the local issues web site www.OpenCdA.com for more discussion.
Kootenai County Clerk Clifford T. Hayes
Auditor ⋅ Clerk of the District Court · County Assistance ⋅ Elections · Recorder
451 Government Way · P.O. Box 9000
Coeur d’Alene, ID 83816-9000
December 9, 2011
Mayor Sandi Bloem & City Council Members
City of Coeur d’Alene
710 E. Mullan Avenue
Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814
Dear Mayor & Council Members,
I observed your televised City Council meeting on Tuesday December 6 regarding the November 8 election results, and there are several items I’d like to clarify.
First, may I share my interpretation of your responsibilities under Idaho Code IC 50-412 (included)? It clearly states that it is the County Commissioners who canvass the results, the County Commissioners who accept the tabulation of votes prepared by the election judges & clerks, and the only responsibility of the City Council "is to enter the results into the minutes of your proceedings and proclaim them as final". Therefore, I believe your motion to “accept and certify the election results” was unnecessary.
Second, regarding various conversations about me or the Clerk’s office during your meeting:
--Councilman Hassell referred to having reviewed the poll books in the past to “look up specific names and see whether they voted or not”.
o Mr. Hassell can make a public records request for that information & we will send him the record copies he seeks. Or he can come to the Elections office to view the poll books under Elections staff supervision.
o As Councilman Edinger acknowledged, all of you have the option to come to the Elections office to view the poll books. The poll books must remain in our physical custody for security reasons, however.
--Councilman Kennedy repeatedly questioned why I or a representative from my office was not present, and referred to a supposed “dereliction of duty” to be at your meeting to answer your questions. He also said I should have had “the presence of mind” to attend.
o There is no duty in Idaho Code for me to have been at your meeting.
--Councilwoman Goodlander mentioned that perhaps had I been invited I may have been there.
o She is correct; however, I was not invited. I am sorry she is not comfortable with how things are done now versus the past, but the elections laws have changed.
--Mayor Bloem said the City’s job is to accept the results, but that is not exactly how the IC 50-412 section cited earlier is phrased.
o It is disappointing that city staff, particularly the City Administrator and the City Attorney, were not aware of the city’s legal responsibilities in this matter.
--Councilman Kennedy stated that all he’d “received were two pages of results”, and that it was “less information” than the City received two years ago.
o The City Clerk and Deputy City Clerk were emailed many pages of documents on November 18, immediately following November 17’s canvass, and your packet shows that more information was given to you that evening. I am enclosing copies of what your staff had, and will detail more facts later in this letter.
--Councilman McEvers rightly questions the need for the Council to canvass the votes when the elections responsibilities have changed.
--Councilman Hassell is correct that the County Commissioners have already canvassed the election results and you are not being asked to certify that the Commissioners did it right.
--Councilman Kennedy is right to question why you should be duplicating the County Commissioners’ responsibilities without the information.
Third, several remarks were made about the former County Clerk having been present in prior years to discuss election results. It’s important to expand upon how the situation was different then. Before, the City was responsible for running your own elections, and you chose to contract with the County for that responsibility, and specified tasks you sought in that contract. As City Attorney Gridley pointed out, that is not the case now. The Legislature has assigned all elections responsibilities to the County. Not only has the County Elections staff followed every code provision required of us handling this responsibility, we have also given training to your City Clerk about the City’s new responsibilities. Post-canvass, your responsibilities are only to enter the election results in the minutes of your proceedings, and issue certificates to the November 8 winners.
Fourth, regarding more detailed information about the election canvass, County Elections staff emailed all City Clerks about the Board of County Commissioners’ canvass meeting on November 17. Some City Clerks were present, including Susan Weathers. She was given nine pages of documents acknowledging
--all the verification steps taken and their outcomes
--the specific Idaho Code provisions or Secretary of State’s directives guiding those steps
--the number & type of poll worker errors by precinct
--voting statistics (registered voters, total ballots cast, voter turnout) by precinct
--voided absentee ballots & the reasons, by city
City Clerk Weathers forwarded only two of these nine pages to you and the Council in your packet, along with the two pages of results referred to on camera by Mr. Kennedy, and the two pages of certificates from the Clerk and County Commissioners. I have included copies of the seven additional pages Clerk Weathers received but did not relay earlier: these are reports on voided absentee ballots by city, and voting statistics by precinct.
Mayor Bloem, I truly appreciate your attentiveness to the elections outcome, as I am sure you and the Council are reacting in part to the 2009 elections lawsuit. This letter might seem acerbic, and I hope you realize that most of my concern is with Councilman Kennedy. He has been a friend for years, yet I found his conduct in your meeting offensive, and below the decorum standard expected of an elected official. I believe his apology is in order, but I’m not expecting it because I know Mike.
If you would consider reading this letter into the record at your next Council meeting, I’d appreciate it. You and the Council conveyed so much confusion about this canvass situation; it would be nice to set the record straight for the public. I will understand if you choose not to do this, however.
Clifford T. Hayes, Clerk
Enclosures as referenced