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Guest Opinion

Burning money at SVCRD

The Long Valley Advocate of Cascade, Idaho

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GUEST

Like many Southern Valley County residents, I have watched with great interest the activities of the SVCRD last several years.

I read with interest the January 5th Advocate Viewpoint section featuring SVCRD attorney Stephanie Bonney. She summarized "an independent legal review of allegations in a petition submitted to the board regarding the district's operations" and concluded "the district to be a valid recreational district with a legal and functioning board of directors." With even greater interest, I read the January 19th Advocate Viewpoint section written by the Valley County Prosecuting Attorney. Arguing a diametrically opposed position, Matt Williams wrote "The SVCRD failure to follow the law and the backdoor appointment of the Director not put up for election seriously calls into question the entire Board legitimacy." He concluded "I have no option but to bring lawsuit(s), as I am required by law to do, against the director's usurping office." He added "I have been asking to meet the directors since late November but they have yet to agree to meet with me to discuss this issue."

Three weeks later, SVCRD board members Pat Cowles, Mike Smith, and Yvette Davis were served lawsuits by sheriff deputies at the end of a SVCRD meeting.

On February 25,1 delivered personal letters to each of the board members. I wrote: "At this time, the three of you in your roles as board members and stewards for the SVCRD, a county governmental agency, are actively engaged in an incredibly adversarial relationship with the county's prosecuting attorney. Does it make it any sense to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend your positions in ostensibly unpaid volunteer duties for the community? In my opinion, to spend SVCRD's funds on these legal fees is to forever blacken your reputations as good stewards

of SVCRD and possibly permanently damage the reputation of SVCRD as a positive agency for Valley County. In my opinion, to spend your personal funds on these legal fees to protect volunteer, unpaid, community positions begs the question of why is this so personally important."

In those personal letters, I suggested that each of them officially resign and re-run for election in May. I also suggested that the election be a referendum on their vision of what the SCVRD should physically build and financially support in the foreseeable future.

I have received no response to those private letters. For other reasons later on February 25, Mr. Smith resigned. Mike Keithly was appointed to fill his term by Mr. Cowles and Ms. Davis on March 8.

In the March 23rd Advocate Viewpoint, Dennis Marguet wrote that the SVCRD Board approved paying in excess of $9,700 to hire an attorney to contest the prosecutor's previously filed lawsuits. In the April 6th Advocate, a frontpage story quoted a legal affidavit filed by Mr. Cowles saying that legal action against the three board members "stems from a public debate over whether the SVCRD should construct a covered swimming pool or seasonal swimming pool facility" and that Cascade Mayor Dick Carter "wishes to force SVCRD to change its preferred option and locate the swimming pool facility to the Kelly's Whitewater Park facility."

Am I the only Valley County citizen that feels that non-paid, volunteer SVCRD directors engaging in a litigious, money-consuming contest with the county's top prosecutor is plumb crazy? Am I the only Valley County citizen that sees the only legitimate issue in this controversy is simply whether the current SVCRD directors were elected according to Idaho code? Did they follow the rules? Nothing less, nothing more! Why sup- posedly elected members of any county governmental agency would refuse to meet with the district attorney is simply inexplicable to me? At this point, the only sure winner in this lawsuit is Stephanie Bonney's law firm. The only sure loser in this lawsuit is us — the individuals who live in the Southern Valley County district who will be asked to swallow the expenses of this debacle for both Stephanie Bonney's law firm and the office of the District Prosecutor.

Unfortunately, Mr. Keithly's

appointment is also tainted; he was selected by directors (Mr. Cowles and Ms. Davis) whose own elections are challenged by civil authorities.

I now ask publicly Mr. Cowles and Mr. Keithly to resign. Run again, as is Ms. Davis, if you like. Let that election establish your legitimacy as board members once and for all and serve as a referendum on your visions.

(Olin Balch is a Cascade resident)



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Original Publication Date: April 13, 2011



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