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  • Writer's pictureBruce Mattare

Justice Center: Will Our Parachute Open?

The CDA Press wrote an article today describing how yesterday the BOCC agreed to proceed with the Justice Center. That part is true...but there's context that my printed statement didn't convey.

As you know, the real issue about this project is that the total cost estimates for the Justice Center expansion were never presented to the Board. It's impossible to meaningfully discuss the project and identify where the savings would come from if we're not kept informed. The only time we discussed allocating savings to pay for this boondoggle was in March of this year and the Board was only presented with a $35 million figure.

"Six million for the Justice Center and $6 million for the jail pods," is what was stated (see below in queued video).

Consequently, I (and the balance of the Board) voted to move forward with the $35 million Justice Center expansion project. We also agreed that the final decision would be made in August once the final numbers were presented to the board (see below in queued video). That did not happen.

Since then, the project lead was well aware that the total cost exceeded $38 million, but never brought it to the Board's attention, so we could discuss where the money would come from to pay for it. There is no doubt it was the project lead's responsibility to bring all of that information to the Board for a public meeting discussion.

Board Members Cannot Communicate with Each Other Outside Open Meetings

You see, per Idaho Open Meeting Law, we cannot discuss County business outside scheduled (and properly noticed) meetings. That's why people who are project leads must have clear and concise public meetings with other Board members to make them aware of the pending issues. That simply did not happen.

Further, we cannot deliberate County issues via email, as that activity, too, breaches Open Meeting law. These laws are in place to protect the public and ensure that unscrupulous politicians aren't conniving in the shadows at the public's expense.

Commissioners Work Best When Everyone is Operating in Good Faith

They don't work well when relevant information is concealed or not shared. Not discussing where the savings would come from to pay for a $38.3 million building before it broke ground was a breach of the project lead's responsibility and fiduciary to the rest of the Board members.

YOU, the taxpayer, will never know if meaningful Board collaboration and greater transparency before construction began could have saved us significant amounts of money...while still accomplishing ALL of the Justice Center needs!

Because the project lead guided us to this point, and because it would cost taxpayers millions to abandon the project since construction has started, I was left with the only choice to vote in favor of proceeding with the $38.3 million dollar (as of today) Justice Center expansion.

Since the moment I learned I was not being given accurate information, I did what I could to be transparent to the taxpayers by demanding that we have a public hearing where the actual cost be explained, and you could know where the money would come from.

I also asked that the Finance Director be included in this process, and that we hire a professional (whose fiduciary is to the BOCC) in the hope we can optimally manage the "soft" costs. Up to this point, the county has no construction expert to rely upon whose allegiance is to the County (and not a vendor).

It disappoints me greatly to see how key information was withheld from the balance of the Board. Sadly, there's no going back after you jump out of the plane.

You can only hope that your parachute opens before you hit the ground.

Here's my $38.3 million "trailer":

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