Controversy continues over alleged fairgrounds fraud

By Soncirey Mitchell
Reader Staff

The County Fair Board issued an extensive press release Oct. 16, claiming that the Bonner County commissioners and Clerk Michael Rosedale are likely to blame for the alleged 2022 fairgrounds fraud. The 21-page statement claimed that the BOCC has a duty to internally and externally audit their accounts, and a failure to do so enabled the misappropriation of an unknown amount of funds.

An investigative report published July 26 by the Sheriff’s Office indicated that somewhere between $40,000 and $247,000 worth of fairgrounds funds were misappropriated; however, the investigation reached no definitive conclusion as to the exact amount or where the money went.

According to the press release, “[The BOCC’s] statutory duties were breached, in some cases willfully, in FY2022 and earlier and there is no sign that these duties won’t continue to be breached in the future thereby harming the CFB by disabling it from obtaining proper financial control over its financial operations.”

Bonner County Clerk Michael Rosedale. File photo.

Both sides have gone back and forth claiming that the other is responsible for the fairgrounds’ finances. The Fair Board’s press release specifically cited Idaho Code sections 31-802, 31-809 and 31-1701 — which outline the BOCC’s role supervising and auditing all county funds — as supposed proof of negligence by Rosedale and the commissioners.

“We audit that portion of the Fair Board’s funds that run through the county: The tax levy, and what the county pays for (salaries, benefits and $20K for ribbons),” Rosedale told the Reader in an Oct. 18 email. “But the other operating expenses we can never see (like the rodeo, ticket sales, …the entire fair), so we can never include those in the audit (obviously).”

Rosedale filed a lawsuit against the Fair Board on Aug. 31 in an effort to force its compliance with his public records request. Kootenai County Judge John Mitchell dismissed the suit at an Oct. 16 hearing due to a technicality — Rosedale did not include his address on the records requests, as required by Idaho Code.

The CFB referred to Rosedale’s actions as an “aggressive use of Public Records Act litigation” that attempted to “obscure his failure.”

“Rosedale is requesting financial records that he is aware probably don’t exist, aiming to discredit the CFB,” according to the statement, though the Fair Board did not provide a reason for rejecting Rosedale’s request in lieu of any customary reply.

“Isn’t it strange how they won’t give us their records, yet say ‘please audit us,’” Rosedale wrote. “Isn’t it strange that a county clerk would even have to resort to a formal records request to get these, and then have to go to court to try to obtain them — and have the board fight and win to not disclose them.”

He went on to explain that the county treasurer and auditing staff don’t have access to the fairgrounds’ bank accounts, bills or payment history and so cannot audit them.

The issue came up during the public comment section of the BOCC’s regular business meeting Oct. 17, as the agenda called for a “Discussion/Decision Regarding Fair Board” during the executive session.

Commissioner Luke Omodt, who as of Oct. 16 has been elected chair of the BOCC, spoke briefly about the fairgrounds controversy, but indicated that it should be discussed internally.

“The attorneys for the Board of County Commissioners and the elected county officials are going to meet with the hired third-party attorneys that the Fair Board has engaged. All we are doing today is to discuss preparations for that meeting,” he said, referencing the agenda.

“I think at this time, because of the current dynamics around all that, it would be inappropriate for the commissioners to go any further into detail on those subjects,” said Commissioner Steve Bradshaw.

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