BoCo commission drama reaches boiling point

Commissioner Williams files protection order against Chair Bradshaw alleging threat

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

The in-fighting that has for months characterized business meetings of the Bonner County board of commissioners reached a higher pitch in the past week, with Commissioner Asia Williams filing a temporary protection order against Commission Chair Steven Bradshaw, alleging a verbal threat.

Bradshaw declined to comment on the issue in an email Aug. 18 to the Reader, while Sheriff Daryl Wheeler on Aug. 19 wrote that his office “has been asked to conduct a criminal investigation. As such, I am unable to comment.”

According to an Aug. 21 all-county email shared with the Reader by Williams and apparently originating with Bonner County Human Resources Director Alissa Clark, H.R. had been given confirmation of the protection order, and stated that, “At this time, Commissioner Bradshaw is not permitted on county property. He is to conduct business electronically and is not to come within 1,000 feet of Commissioner Williams.”

Clark declined to comment further when reached Aug. 23 by the Reader.

Bonner County Commissioner Asia Williams. File photos.

Bradshaw participated in the Aug. 22 BOCC business meeting remotely, but did not address the issue.

Williams said at the meeting that she’d had “a busy week.” 

“There are a lot of questions coming regarding the visible change at these meetings and I will say that I’m not answering individual questions,” she added, referring to Bradshaw’s in-person absence at the county administration building. 

Williams pointed to a statement she had issued Aug. 21, and said, “the business meeting isn’t the platform from which to discuss the change on this particular board at this time.”

According to the statement, which Williams shared with the Reader, “a high-level county employee” had come to the prosecuting attorney and sheriff with a report that Bradshaw had “verbalized death threats against me,” which she had also been made aware of.

“Death threats should never be ignored or taken lightly,” she wrote, noting that affidavits and additional documents were provided to the court regarding the alleged threat, resulting in the protection order upon further review.

The exact details are unclear, as the filing is confidential.

Multiple sources have indicated that the matter is scheduled to go before First District Magistrate Court Judge Justin Julian as early as Wednesday, Aug. 30 in a closed hearing.

“It is by many accounts a completely unprecedented situation wherein the courts have taken action against a sitting county commissioner for making death threats against a co-commissioner,” Williams wrote in her statement. “Regardless of precedence, the county has a responsibility to take every reasonable action to provide a safe work environment. In this situation, I and the county employees are owed that protection and assurance of a safe, hostile-free work environment.”

Williams referred to the Aug. 21 email from Clark making county employees aware of the situation, adding: 

“Up to this point, the county has relied on the civil action that I brought before the court to restrict Commissioner Bradshaw from county property and my immediate presence. In my opinion, the county administrators have an obligation outside of my civil action to protect my safety, and the safety of all employees of the county building. As such, I have requested that the county administrators take action to protect me and ensure a safe work environment for all who work and conduct business with the county. Law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office and human resources are diligently working on this very difficult issue.”

In a lengthy statement received from Bonner County Republican Central Committee Chair Scott Herndon late Aug. 23, he wrote in part that Bradshaw “regularly exhibits zero ability to control himself next to Asia” and has “been unable to conduct meetings following basic rules of governmental order.” What’s more, Bradshaw’s “public conduct brings shame” to the party, and, “We are at the point where Commissioner Bradshaw should resign” or issue a public apology, then resign as chairman.

“What I am calling for is repentance — a 180-degree turn in his conduct by Commissioner Steve Bradshaw,” Herdon wrote.

The exact nature of the alleged threat that prompted Williams to file the protection order remains unclear, but tensions at the BOCC business meeting of Aug. 15 ran particularly high, as Williams pushed back against a range of policies that she has argued stifle public comment and participation. As she has at past meetings, Williams introduced multiple agenda items to broaden public involvement, which have been consistently sidelined by Bradshaw and Commissioner Luke Omodt — both of whom have stated on a number of occasions that the BOCC is under no obligation to provide for public comment during business meetings. 

Williams has chafed particularly at the use of Robert’s Rules of Order during the meetings, which she claims have been improperly applied to silence deliberation and kill her various motions either by lack of a second or by calling the question.

The sparring between the commissioners continued throughout the Aug. 15 business meeting, becoming especially heated during the second half of the almost two-hour-long proceedings.

Bradshaw called for a vote on two Planning Commission reappointments, which Omodt had moved to approve and Bradshaw stepped down as chair to second. Williams opposed the reappointments because she felt they “boxed out” members of the community from serving.

Williams then appealed the decision to move to a vote without what she considered to be the conclusion of discussion, and further deliberations broke down into disagreements over Robert’s Rules of Order, resulting in a recess.

Bradshaw again called for the vote after commissioners returned from the recess, though Williams objected, saying she wasn’t finished deliberating and wanted to vote on her appeal. That debate again broke down, with Bradshaw turning to Williams, and in a raised voice saying, “I am the chairman and you will respect that. Do you understand how this works?”

“There’s how it works right there,” he continued, bringing his hand down on a sheet of paper apparently detailing the rules of order. “That’s why you don’t want the rules of order, because you don’t want to follow them. And all you want to do is fight; you want to start an argument and fight and that’s all the hell you want to do. You will follow these orders or you will not. Your choice. You can be an idiot in front of these people all you want to.”

Further statements between the three commissioners over the rules contained interruptions and cross-talk, resulting in the defeat of Williams’ appeal and the approval of commission reappointments.

“Stop with all the hate and vitriol,” Williams said following the vote.

“I don’t hate you, I just hate how you behave,” Bradshaw said. 

Omodt asked Bradshaw to return to the order of the agenda, to which Williams responded, “I love how you ask for the order yet you don’t have anything [to say] when he [Bradshaw] starts screaming. So you guys are inconsistent.”

“Oh no, we’re consistent Ms. Williams,” Omodt said, again asking to “get back to the order of the day, Mr. Chairman, and can we conduct the business of Bonner County? I am not interested in arguing or fighting.”

Another vote on a Zoning Commission reappointment turned into more disagreement over Robert’s Rules of Order and what provisions it provides or doesn’t provide for requiring deliberation. 

“Calling the question without deliberation isn’t a slap in the face to Commissioner Williams, it’s a slap in the face to the community that comes here to listen to how we deliberate,” Williams said. 

The final 25 minutes of the meeting saw Williams return to her opposition to the use of Robert’s Rules of Order as “rules for thee and not for me” and “an argument by which to stifle me.”

“The only thing that is transparent from this board is a concerted effort to stifle the process by which we conduct business,” she said, moving to discontinue the rules of order and revert to Bonner County’s prior method of conducting business meetings.

It died without a second, though Williams continued to state her opposition.

“There was a motion, there was no second, it is dead. Item 2, Ms. Williams. You’re not a stranger to this, you know how this works. Go forward please,” Bradshaw said, prompting Williams to respond, “As you two call for respect, you can start by: stop calling me ‘darling,’ stop calling me ‘little miss,’ stop lowering my position on this board and you’ll be treated with equal respect.”

Williams’ further motions to stream county budget meetings on Zoom and have a discussion on the plan moving forward related to a proposed RV campground at the county fairgrounds both died without a second, which she described as “arrogance” that “doesn’t serve our community.”

Another motion by Williams for the chair to specifically identify what the public should do to get comment returned to business meetings spurred Bradshaw to respond, “Adult behavior, with civility.”

“How is it that you can have a greater expectation to tell someone they can’t stand up out of frustration when you literally use your position to do way worse than what has been done in these meetings on the part of the public,” Williams responded.

More back-and-forth followed, with Williams calling on Bradshaw to further explain his statements regarding public comment and Bradshaw maintaining he already had.

“I think you ought to agitate the hell out of me some more and see where that ends up,” he said, announcing that Williams’ motion had died for lack of a second.

Omodt seconded a proposed ordinance from Williams that would inform the public how to place items on the agenda, but moved to hold a public workshop regarding how best to do that. The amendment died, followed by Williams’ proposed ordinance, which failed to secure a second.

“I would love to have the three-minute comment part [of the BOCC business meetings] back, but I want it back the way it was prior to January, where people would come and speak and be respectful and behave, like most of you do,” Bradshaw said. “But there are those who absolutely refuse to and they are ruining it for everybody.”

Williams then stood and left the meeting room. 

“Why don’t you puff up and leave the meeting like you always do, prior to recess,” Bradshaw said, adding that he’d be willing to reintroduce the three-minute comment period to business meetings and, “if it works we will continue, if it does not work then it will be dead in the water until the first week of January, at which time we’ll switch chairmans.”

Additional reporting by Ben Olson.

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