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Why we requested review by the Attorney General

Newspaper: Teton Valley News & Valley Citizen

On October 15, 2013, VARD filed an official complaint to the Teton County Prosecutor alleging misappropriation of taxpayer funds, violation of County and State laws, as well as violations of the fiduciary duties vested in our Board of County Commissioners. This is not a lawsuit. It is a citizen complaint lodged with our County officials that requests local and state action.  We asked the Teton County  Prosecutor to take the steps necessary to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent legally and responsibly. We also requested that the Prosecutor turn this over to the Idaho Attorney General for review – which she promptly did last week.

Our complaint stems from a series of actions by the BOCC that have cost Teton County taxpayers thousands of dollars, without producing any services or deliverables to benefit the community.  The story began last March when our Commissioners chose to fire an experienced and credentialed County Planner with no notice.  He was quickly replaced by a contract employee with no educational degree in planning, to be paid nearly twice the hourly rate for unspecified work. 

Over the next six months, we watched the Commissioners repeatedly authorize payment of public funds to this private contractor, Mr. Stephen Loosli, in exchange for vague and irregular invoices, some requesting thousands of dollars and providing fewer than 20 words of explanation. These bills have been continuously paid, even when Mr. Loosli fails to show up to scheduled meetings to explain his work. These bills are paid despite the fact that the Commissioners have yet to see or review any work product to date. These bills are paid despite 2 out of 3 Commissioners (Park and Rinaldi) expressly stating they have absolutely no idea what work Mr. Loosli is doing.

By allowing public funds to be given to a private contractor in exchange for no tangible work, we believe the Commissioners essentially gifted these taxpayer funds in violation of the Idaho State Constitution. Furthermore, by adopting only a vague five-sentence scope of work, all work directives to Mr. Loosli have been via oral agreements which appear to often have been made outside of open meetings and without a quorum of Commissioners. As a group that advocates for fiscally responsible, fair, transparent, and representative governance, it was time to take action.

We did not take this step lightly.  For months now, we communicated our concerns directly to our elected officials and encouraged the citizens to speak with their representatives.  However, the meter continued to run, and our elected officials were simply not responsive to the concerns of the public. 

As the state processes our complaint, we remain confident that these issues can be dealt with locally, without additional cost to taxpayers.  We have asked the Prosecutor that funds spent illegally through the actions of the BOCC be returned to the taxpayers.  Our community has worked passionately to define a shared vision for future well-being and prosperity, including investments in great schools, continued development of trails and pathways, and continued stewardship of critical habitat and community character.  Taxpayer dollars currently being spent on an out-of-county contract planner for unspecified work could be better spent in Teton Valley, as we work collaboratively to invest in our community’s shared vision of the Comprehensive Plan.

Stacey Frisk

Executive Director

Valley Advocates for Responsible Development

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