VARD files compaint to Idaho Attorney General
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 14, 2013
Contact: Stacey Frisk, Executive Director
Notice of Official Complaint Filed with the Teton County Prosecutor’s Office and Request for Referral to the Office of the Idaho Attorney General
The staff, Board of Directors, and membership of Valley Advocates for Responsible Development (VARD) continue to support transparent, fiscally responsible governance that benefits the people of Teton County, ID. Recent actions by members of the Teton County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) violate these fundamental tenets of good governance, and potentially cross the line into illegal behavior. We have filed an official complaint with the Teton County Prosecutor’s Office and requested review by the Idaho Attorney General. On October 16, 2013, the Prosecutor handed our complaint over to the Attorney General, and we are hopeful for a timely review and response from the state. This is not a lawsuit, but rather, a request for the state to investigate if any laws have been violated. It is also an opportunity for our local elected leaders to remedy the situation.
The events that led to this complaint are complex, and involve numerous relationships, actions, and conversations. In summary:
1) After firing staff planner Curt Moore in March 2013, the BOCC advertised for a replacement to serve on a contract basis, yet no contract was drafted. Further, a scope-of-work, deliverables, or deadlines were never available for review by applicants or the public. After 35 minutes of closed deliberations, the BOCC selected a candidate, Stephen Loosli with no formalized educational degree in planning at a rate of $50/hour. We believe that the manner in which Teton County hired Mr. Loosli violated both county and statutory procurement policies.
2) In the following months, the BOCC has routinely paid invoices for Stephen Loosli, the contract planner, without requiring or receiving any work deliverables. The BOCC continues to pay Mr. Loosli’s invoices, despite openly admitting they have no idea what work Mr. Loosli is doing for Teton County, where his work directives are coming from, or what public input has informed his process. Despite having no formalized scope of work that required any specific deliverables from Mr. Loosli, the BOCC budgeted $72,000 of public funds to pay Mr. Loosli over the next two years. To date, the BOCC continues to pay Mr. Loosli despite being the recipient of a HUD “Sustainable Communities Grant” that included over $313,000 for code writing to be completed by a separate contractor, Code Studio (an Austin, TX based firm with over 20+ years of professional code writing expertise).
3) In light of growing concerns from the public and the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) that Loosli’s work duplicated Code Studio at great taxpayer expense, the BOCC directed the P&Z to draft a contract with Mr. Loosli detailing scope of work, deliverables, and timelines. This contract was adopted by the BOCC in July 2013. When Mr. Loosli failed to produce the required deliverables by the first established deadlines, the Chairman of P&Z formally notified the BOCC of the breach of contract. Instead of requiring accountability from their contractor Mr. Loosli, the BOCC responded by throwing out the Loosli’s current contract and instead adopting a 5-sentence ‘statement’ governing Mr. Loosli’s work. This statement, which directs Mr. Loosli to “work on all matters regarding planning & zoning for Teton County ID as directed by the Board of County Commissioners” does not require any deliverables or set any deadlines. As there are no benchmarks or oversight required for payment of his invoices out of public funds, this relationship constitutes a gift of public funds to a private citizen in violation of the Idaho Constitution.
4) VARD has asked that the Teton County Prosecutor’s Office take action immediately regarding the BOCC’s illegal hiring and payment of public funds to private contractor Mr. Stephen Loosli that exceeded their statutory and implied powers as elected officials.
Valley Advocates for Responsible Development (VARD) is a nonprofit, membership organization working to preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty and critical environmental areas, and foster vibrant downtown communities. Our mission is to advocate for private, public and civic actions that will result in the responsible development and sustainable use of the natural resources (water, land, wildlife, and air) in Teton Valley, Idaho.