BOCC civil protection order clarified after five months

Judge: Deputy not necessary at meetings, sheriff says armed presence will remain

By Soncirey Mitchell
Reader Staff

The Bonner County board of commissioners reached an unprecedented level of dysfunction in August of 2023, when Commissioner Steve Bradshaw allegedly made a verbal threat against fellow-Commissioner Asia Williams, resulting in a civil protection order. Judge Justin Julian, who issued the order, held an additional hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 24 to clarify any potential confusion regarding its enforcement.

Commissioner Asia Williams. File photo.

The protection order, shared with the Reader on Jan. 30 by Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler, states that, “Respondent [Bradshaw] may attend commissioner meetings with petitioner [Williams] but shall possess no firearms or other weapons at such meetings or on any county-owned property, and shall submit to searches to verify the absence of weapons.”

Bradshaw used Zoom to attend the first regular business meeting following the alleged threat, but thereafter attended in-person alongside a sheriff’s lieutenant, who supervises each meeting. The lieutenant’s presence, and the protection order itself, have generated ample debate among the public and the commissioners during past business meetings, with opponents questioning the use of county tax dollars to pay for an armed guard.

“That deputy is back there because Commissioner Bradshaw declined the option offered from the county [to attend all meetings via Zoom], and so that’s why he’s here,” said Williams during a Nov. 14 debate with members of the public. She later added, “Hold the person who caused it responsible for why that person is in the back.” 

Commissioner Steve Bradshaw. File photo.

Williams did not respond to an additional request for comment by press time, whereas Bradshaw declined to comment.

The protection order did not stipulate an armed presence during the meetings — a fact that Julian clarified during the recent hearing — however, according to Wheeler, the lieutenant will continue to attend for the foreseeable future.

“Police officers throughout the state refer to the written orders’ restrictions and exceptions in a protection order to determine if there is a violation of that order. Judge Julian made no modifications to the protection order, and without written modifications, nothing changes,” Wheeler told the Reader in a Jan. 30 email.

The protection order will remain in effect until Aug. 30, 2024, unless terminated by an additional court order.

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