Something Smells Bad at GBAD

UPDATED BELOW X3

Recently the Idaho Statesman profiled the May 21st election for the Greater Boise Auditorium District membership on the Board of Directors and what's at stake in this election.

Candidates Steve Berch, Jim Walker (both running for six-year terms) and George Tway (seeking a two-year term) have the same campaign manager and are endorsed by GBAD board chairman and Idaho House member Hy Kloc, who was endorsed by Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who endorses a new baseball stadium. Berch-Walker-Tway were the only candidates among the eight to advocate for a multiuse sports facility (not to the exclusion of convention enhancements) during a candidate forum May 9. They did not spell out baseball specifically, but emphasized "multiuse." They claim they are not a "slate," but they espouse a common anti-incumbent message.

Stephanie Astorquia, Rob Perez (running for six-year terms) and Peter Oliver (running for a two-year term) are incumbents, though Perez and Oliver are relatively new appointees (one year ago and four months ago, respectively). These three share a campaign flier and none advocated specifically for a multiuse sports facility at the candidate forum. They see their strength and their future as operating, and perhaps expanding, the district's convention business. Expansion plans could include a 50,000-square-foot exhibition area that consultants recommend.

The remaining two candidates, John May and Noah Bard, both have industry experience. May's is in the hotel business and serving in community development capacities. His parents have both served on the GBAD board - May's late father, Larry, and his mother, Gail, who left the board in January. Oliver was appointed to the seat Gail May left at midterm.

This is a non-partisan race with strong partisan overtones. With cursory mention, the editorial references bad blood in previous GBAD deliberations with prominent local Republican, Judy Peavey Derr, a GBAD Board Director not up for re-election, occupying center stage in the fracas. Local Democrats will remember Judy Peavey Derr's recent effort to unseat Democratic incumbent Senator Eliot Werk making some vicious personal allegations in the campaign. Werk handily defeated her.

In January, Ms. Peavey Derr maneuvered the Board into executive session where they determined in secret to hire Kestrel West LLC to do public relations work on behalf of GBAD. Kestrel West is the current incarnation of John Foster's public relations and lobbying efforts. Idaho Democrats will recall that Mr. Foster is the former Executive Director of the Democratic Party who ran Congressman Minnick's embarrassing 2010 re-election effort which conducted a fierce campaign against Democrats. After losing this election, Foster then went out of his way to blame Democrats for failing to come out and support Minnick. Thereafter Foster burned any last vestige of goodwill with progressives by agreeing to work with Republicans to defeat Idaho's Education Reform Referendum seeking to void the Luna Laws. The Referendum was overwhelmingly successful.

The need for Kestrel West's services are not specifically identified in the meeting minutes, but GBAD hired Kestrel West for PR work on February 15, 2013, and a copy of the Consulting Agreement is attached at the end of the minutes, right after a Resolution clarifying their bylaws regarding this very election. Clearly, this election was on their mind during the hiring process. The Board and Kestrel West avoided a competitive bidding process, by limiting the term of the Agreement to six months and thus less than $25,000.

Here is where things get interesting. The Board Member incumbents are clearly running campaigns with literature, absentee ballot request mailings, yard signs and the works. All three campaigns have the same Treasurer, Thomas J. Wilford former Chief Executive Officer of J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, Inc. the primary backer of the Luna laws. Their literature is marked that it is paid for by their respective campaigns. Yet none of the Campaign Financial Disclosure Reports for Peter Oliver, Stephanie Astorquia, or Rob Perez indicates any contributions through May 5, and none of them show any expenditures. The disclosures encompass the time period January 1 to May 5, 2013. But a campaign requesting your supporters to fill out absentee ballot requests requires significant lead time, for your mailer to go out, and for them to respond before the May 15th deadline. Certainly the money would be in place for such expenditures.

These circumstances raise questions for enterprising journalists who are in short supply. But the Republican taint all over the incumbents should motivate pro-growth Democrats into the polling booth.

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Update: 5/17 5:07; for clarification and to note an even stronger connection between the campaigns and John Foster in the guise of:

Mr. Thomas J. Wilford has been the President of Alscott Inc., since 1993. Mr. Wilford has been the Chief Executive Officer of J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, Inc. since 2003. He served as President of J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation Inc. from 1995 to 2003. From 1986 to 1993, Mr. Wilford was an office managing partner with Ernst & Young in Anchorage, Alaska and Consulting division in Idaho, where he was also tax manager. He was a Tax Partner with Watson, ...

They would have worked together on the Referendum.

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Update: 5/17 8:06; All of this secrecy looks vaguely familiar. But there's not enough time for the Secretary of State to sue. Dirty politics at its worst?

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Update: 5/20 4:05; I'm told that the Secretary of State says that any complaints on the election process have to be filed with the Board itself, the majority of which includes the incumbents who are the primary transgressors. Justice delayed is justice denied.