by Kurtis Workman
Press Staff Writer
A short, but rough era in Power County is coming to an end according to Power County Prosecutor Ryan Petersen.
The Power County Commissioners have scheduled a public hearing at 9 a.m. on Monday, July 8, to reopen the 2012 budget.
In a press release issued by the Power County Prosecutor’s office, reopening the budget will pave the way to ending the contentious saga between the commissioners and former Power County Prosecutor Randy Kline.
“Power County Commissioners Vicki Meadows, Ron Funk, and Delane Anderson and Power County Prosecutor Ryan Petersen have come to a resolution of all pending legal disputes between the Prosecutor’s Office and the Commissioners. Next month, the commissioners will open up the 2012 budget to comply with an existing court order. This meeting will close all existing litigation,” said Petersen.
Petersen said there were several steps involved in reaching a resolution that began with establishing who was involved in the lawsuits after Petersen won the 2012 election. Ultimately all the parties included in the lawsuit, plaintiffs, defendants, lawyers and judges, agreed the lawsuits were brought by the Power County Prosecutor’s office not by Kline personally. This allowed Petersen to take over as the plaintiff in the lawsuits.
Petersen worked with the other parties involved, including the Idaho Supreme Court, to bring the suits to a resolution.
Most of the suits were dropped as part of the agreement, but the original lawsuit made it all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court on appeal after District Judge David C. Nye handed down the original ruling in favor of Kline on June 14, 2012.
Petersen along with other interested parties asked the Idaho Supreme Court to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that all of the groups involved agreed dismissal was an acceptable resolution.
The Idaho Supreme Court agreed to dismiss the appeal, with the stipulation the original ruling by Nye was to remain in effect.
Petersen said reopening the budget to reexamine the salaries of elected officials, vendor contracts and public comment satisfies Nye’s order.
“During the first budget workshops and public hearings there was some confusion and several steps were omitted. By reopening the budget and reexamining those areas we will come into procedural correctness as ordered by Nye,” said Petersen.
The notice of public hearing issued on June 12 by Power County Clerk Chris Steinlicht alsoincluded “allocating funds to pay outside counsel for Fiscal Year 2012″.
Petersen said that while changes could be made to the budget, if there are changes they will be mostly administrative and not change the monetary outcome of the 2012 budget.
“This does not mean we have to change anything, but we do have to reopen the budget and make sure we are procedurally correct. We may have to make changes to come into line with Judge Nye’s order. This will be mostly in the form of moving items to their own separate line-item,” said Petersen.
According to Petersen another reason for opening the budget is to protect other contracts the county has with outside legal counsel that were swept up in the wake of Nye’s decision.
“The first reason we are doing this is to dispense with Kline’s lawsuits. The second reason is there are several contracts that would be nullified by Judge Nye’s decision. Those contracts were not directly related to Kline’s lawsuit, but would still be affected. By having this hearing and correcting those procedural defects we can protect those contracts. If those contracts were nullified it could trigger a string of lawsuits if those contractors affected have to repay money they have been paid over the last year for services they have already given the county,” said Petersen.
For Power County Commission Chair Vicki Meadows the July 8 meeting will mark the end of the conflict that has diverted the attention of county leadership.
“It is closure and a finish, which is nice for me, the other commissioners and the county. I think this the best solution for everyone. We have a number of things coming up that need the attention we have been spending on this issue. We can now move forward,” said Meadows.