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Kennedy: City should pick up tab

by Tom Hearn
| November 27, 2010 8:00 PM

Mike Kennedy is and was a city employee at the time of the lawsuit, and as with any other city employee who is unjustly accused of misconduct, he is entitled to be defended by the city which includes paying for his attorney bill. Mike Kennedy is being unjustly persecuted by Jim Brannon and some of his shadowy financial and political supporters simply because Mike Kennedy is a popular, moderate and unapologetic Democrat who won a fair election.

I think it is important to review a little history to this Jim Brannon lawsuit travesty. Some years ago Jim Brannon ran for Coeur d'Alene City Council and lost. Then, in 2007 he ran again and lost a close race to Al Hassel. In 2009 Jim decided to give it another try and he ran against City Councilman Mike Kennedy. He lost that election, too. Except this time, the vote differential was very close, close enough to trigger a recount, if Jim requested one. But he didn't. Instead, Mr. Brannon took the path that seems to be the new norm in our litigious society; Jim sued. He sued the City Council, the mayor, the city clerk and his opponent, Mike Kennedy. The lawsuit, thanks to delaying tactics by Mr. Brannon and his attorney Starr Kelso, dragged on for 10 months. The city, because it was their election, had to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars to defend the election against the charges that the election was improperly run. And Mike Kennedy, through no fault of his own other than winning a close, but fair election, was forced to hire legal representation to defend himself in court. Mr. Kennedy's price tag to defend himself and his victory at the ballot box has now exceeded $100,000!

The judge ruled that the election was not

see MY TURN, C14

MY TURN

from C1

perfect - none are - but it was fair, legal and "well run." Mike Kennedy had nothing to do with the running of the election, or any errors that may have occurred. The judge ruled that the original results of the voters should stand.

End of story, right? You would think so, but Jim Brannon and Starr Kelso have other ideas. They have filed an appeal of the District Court's ruling to the Idaho Supreme Court. Now, the taxpayers of the city of Coeur d'Alene and one taxpayer and city employee in particular - Mike Kennedy - are on the hook for even more legal fees as this case will likely drag on for an additional six months, or more!

It is unconscionable that one individual such as Mr. Brannon and his financial supporters who refuse to identify themselves publicly as well as their political affiliations and motives, can subject a fellow citizen, who did nothing more than run for office, to bankrupting legal bills and can force the taxpayers of this city to spend thousands of dollars to defend an election that has been judged to be legal and fair.

How many more scarce tax dollars will Jim Brannon's latest legal stunt cost the citizens of Coeur d'Alene? How much more financial damage is Mr. Brannon willing to inflict on Mike Kennedy, his innocent opponent? When is enough enough?

Just because Mike Kennedy put his hat into the ring to represent Coeur d'Alene citizens on the City Council, he should not be subject to a crushing financial burden imposed upon him by a disgruntled, losing candidate. The city of Coeur d'Alene needs to do what is both legal and ethical and cover all of Councilman Kennedy's legal bills resulting from this lawsuit. And since the county ran the election under contract with the city, then they should help foot the bill.

If Mr. Brannon can be counter sued by the city, county or Mr. Kennedy to recover some of these costs, I would support such an effort. Why would anybody in the future want to run for the Coeur d'Alene City Council if they can be personally sued over an election result and have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend themselves, when they, as was shown in court in this case, did nothing wrong?

This election lawsuit travesty by Mr. Brannon needs to end and the city should do the right thing and pay the legal costs of an innocently accused city employee who was personally sued for political reasons. And I hope if Mr. Brannon decides to run again that the citizens remember his blatant political lawsuit that cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

Tom Hearn is a Coeur d'Alene resident.

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