Printed on: November 22, 2012

Blackfoot's shady deal

Idaho law is clear: Governing bodies cannot make policy decisions behind closed doors. And taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent and why. Clearly, then, the Blackfoot School District has shown a total contempt for the folks who pay its bills and the rules everyone, including elected officials, have agreed to live by.

During an April 24 special meeting, the Blackfoot School District went into executive session on the pretense of discussing a potential hire. Included in this closed-door meeting was district Superintendent Scott Crane. Eight minutes later, the group emerged and Board Chairman R. Scott Reese announced that "the agreement between the board and Employee B-2012 has been executed," according to meeting minutes.

That's illegal. No agreement can be "executed" in executive session. The board then approved the agreement that had just been "executed," a clumsy attempt to legitimize an illegitimate deal. By the way, taking eight minutes to "execute" this deal tells us it was likely hashed out beforehand. That's also illegal if done in private.

Finally, the board announced Crane intended to retire. He received a standing ovation and everyone went home fat, dumb and happy. But then, a July district expense report showed a $105,428 payment to a Salt Lake City bank account. That payment was made one day after Crane started his new job as superintendent of schools in Moab, Utah. Crane is "Employee B-2012." Blackfoot officials acknowledged that after a flurry of public records requests. But they have refused to say who got the money and why.

Former Blackfoot teacher Joyce Bingham sued the district to find out who received the payment. The Post Register will join Bingham's suit Monday. The paper also is seeking the details of Crane's deal with the board.

Clearly, the Blackfoot School District is in the wrong. It very likely broke the law by discussing a deal for Crane outside a public meeting. It definitely broke the law by making a decision in executive session. And it continues to break the law by refusing to divulge the details of the deal Crane cut on his way out the door.

All that's bad enough. But, and perhaps this is a way to thumb its nose at the critics, the school board hired a well-known attorney to defend its actions: Dale Storer. Yes, that Dale Storer. The man who is the subject of a pending criminal investigation based on faulty invoices his firm submitted during his three-decade tenure as Idaho Falls city attorney. The man who sat on his hands and did nothing as three Idaho Falls City Council members -- his clients -- violated open meetings laws by cutting a budget deal in the hallway.

Sounds like a marriage made in heaven.

Corey Taule