COEUR d'ALENE - City Councilman Ron Edinger says he never knew about a law prohibiting jobs for family members. But a newspaper article he was quoted in gave him a chance to learn it.
Three of Edinger's grandsons lost jobs with the city of Coeur d'Alene because Edinger holds a seat on the council. An Idaho law says that family members of those on the city council, or of the mayor, can't hold jobs with that city and be paid with public funds.
During the past 40 years, Edinger has been either a city councilman or mayor.
In a June 17, 2000, front-page article in The Idaho Spokesman-Review, Edinger discussed the jobs-for-family-members issue. He was directly quoted in the article.
According to the article, written by Reporter Winston Ross, "Idaho code 18-1359 strictly forbids hiring employees if they have kin on a council or in the mayor's seat."
The topic surfaced back then when a Hayden city councilwoman's son had to be terminated from a job as a lifeguard at Honeysuckle Beach.
In the article, Edinger discussed his daughter Paula Austin's employment with the city of Coeur d'Alene. She was hired before the 1990 law was enacted, so there was no violation.
In an interview with The Press Thursday, Edinger, who was asked about his participation in the article, said, "I knew nothing about the nepotism law, (and) knew nothing about hiring family members. I was never informed by anybody that a family member of mine couldn't work for the city of Coeur d'Alene."
If it was wrong, he said, somebody should have come to him years ago and pointed it out.
He's not happy the jobs-for-family-members issue has come up, again.
"Four years ago I ran for council and it was all about issues," Edinger said.
That's not the case this time, he said.
"I've never run a smear campaign," he said.
Edinger said he believes his family is being attacked for political reasons. By whom, he said he didn't know.
Edinger is up for re-election, and his challenger is Adam Graves.
Graves on Thursday sought to make it clear he's not out to "attack" Edinger's family.
"That is pure political posturing in pursuit of the sympathy vote," Graves said.
He said he didn't ask the city about the law. He said he didn't even know it was on the books.
"I also had no idea Mr. Edinger's grandchildren worked for the city," Graves said.
He did ask the city some related questions, though.
Graves said he inquired about city pay increase percentages and Edinger's daughter. He also wanted to know about Edinger voting on his daughter's pay.
Graves ended his inquiry there, he said.
"Let me be clear, the subsequent actions taken by the city happened without my involvement or knowledge," Graves said.
He said his campaign manager did inquire about city job applications, and whether they ask if any member of the applicant's family works for the city.
Graves wouldn't discuss Edinger's strongly held position that he never knew about the law.
"I want to stay as far away from this as humanly possible," Graves said. "I'd rather stay on topic for what the issues are for the people. I hope this blows over," so a discussion of the issues can resume.
Two of Edinger's grandsons worked part time for the city for years, while a third worked as a seasonal street maintenance employee for the last two summers.
The seasonal employee ended work in August, while the two other grandsons were terminated earlier this month.
Edinger said in the June 2000 article that he had nothing to do with getting his daughter hired, and the person making that hire didn't know Austin was his daughter.
This week, Edinger said, "I have never used my position to further the aspirations of any city employee, including my grandsons."
He said his grandsons are "innocent victims."