By Luke Omodt,
County Commissioner Dist. 3
On July 26, 2023, Sheriff Daryl Wheeler issued a public release incorrectly stating that the fairgrounds financial activity was to be audited and included in Bonner County’s Fiscal Year 2022 financial statement. On Aug. 4, 2023, Deputy Prosecutor Scott Bauer — Sheriff Wheeler’s son-in-law — in his capacity as legal representative of the Fair Board assigned by Prosecutor Louis Marshall, incorrectly stated the fairgrounds financial activity was included in the FY2022 audit of the county.
These claims are simply not true, but there are other problems.
On Friday, Nov. 17, I received a response to my public records request submitted to the Bonner County Fair Board. I requested the following records:
The list of conditions stated by Bonner County Fair Board Chairman Tim Mahan on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023.
A record of all payments issued to the bookkeeper hired by the BCFB from the period of 2014-present and the scope of services.
Copies of all certified budgets presented to the BOCC under Idaho statute from 2014-present detailing the probable income and balances remaining in its treasury, and the amount to derive from levied property taxes.
Copies of all noticed Fair Board meetings and workshops discussing annual budgets and the adoption of the certified budget for presentation to the BOCC for fiscal years 2014-present.
Copies of the meeting minutes related to item No. 4. These records do not exist.
Copies of the publication in an official newspaper of general circulation, the detailed statement of all monies received and expended in connection with the operations of the Fair as per Idaho Code 22-204 for fiscal years 2014-present. These records do not exist.
The responses I received are troubling. For items No. 1, 4, 5, 6 the response was, “This, or, These records do not exist.” For item No. 2, the BCFB didn’t employ a bookkeeper until August 2023. For item No. 3, the information presented was maintained by and included in the audited financial statements of Bonner County.
On Oct. 31, 2022, Bonner County Fair Manager Darcey Smith took her own life after being accused of misappropriating fair funds. An investigation was conducted finding there was evidence supporting that funds were misappropriated. Ms. Smith was never charged or found guilty of a crime.
The Bonner County Fair Board doesn’t have the records necessary to conduct an audit, didn’t have a bookkeeper/treasurer until 2023 and no records exist of the detailed financial statements required by law from 2014-present. Yet, the sheriff and the deputy prosecutor allege that the county commissioners and clerk’s office willfully committed fraud by not auditing the fairgrounds in FY2022.
Meanwhile, Wheeler has authorized the surveillance of BOCC executive sessions, during which the BOCC discusses confidential matters such as litigation, personnel and HR/risk without a court order or statutory authority. The BOCC doesn’t know who has access to or seen these recordings.
My most recent public records record request denial was issued by Bauer on Nov. 17. When a county commissioner can’t get public records related to county government, that’s a problem. When an elected official, or their deputies, allege fraud and then block attempts to view records, that’s a big problem. When the county fair board alleges fraud and the misappropriation of funds while not maintaining the financial records required by law, that’s a bigger problem. When elected officials receive privileges and services that the rest of the taxpayers do not at taxpayer expense, it’s just wrong.
My job as your Bonner county commissioner is to safeguard the taxpayer and I intend to do it. If you have questions send them to [email protected]. I pay taxes too.
Luke Omodt represents District 3 on the Bonner County board of commissioners, comprising the areas immediately north of Sandpoint and the eastern portion of the county.
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