Sunday, September 19, 2021

Study panel hears conflict-of-interest charge

Staff Writer | September 10, 2021 1:00 AM

Bruce Mattare's campaign for county office sent the Optional Forms of Government Study Commission into deliberations on his possible conflict of interest Wednesday night. 

Last week Mattare announced his intent to run for Kootenai County Commissioner District 2, currently held by Chris Fillios. 

OFGSC Chair Dave Botting suggested Mattare should resign from the study group and focus his efforts on the campaign.

"People have been going crazy about the political consequences of this commission," Botting said Wednesday. "I think the fact that you have announced and you're now running a campaign for county commissioner is going to politicize this commission even further."  

As an alternate study commissioner, Mattare will participate in developing a recommendation to keep or change Kootenai County's governmental structure.

"I'm simply suggesting that what you're doing is creating an appearance with the public that is detrimental, and I'm asking you to remove that appearance," Botting said. "If you believe you can be unbiased and continue on this, fine." 

While Mattare said he appreciated Botting's "opinion," he disagreed that his candidacy constitutes a conflict of interest. 

"I have made no public comments about my opinion on anything up to this point," Mattare said. "I don't have any intention of using this platform for any campaign endeavors." 

Mattare said he has been "significantly more silent" than Botting, pointing to the chairman's recent letter to the editor published by The Press in July. In the LTE, Botting listed several public comments about the OFGSC calling it "anti-American" and doing "satan's work." Botting also explained the commission's abilities as listed in Idaho Code 31-5001. 

"You want to talk about adding to the politics of this? Look at your letter to the editor," Mattare said. "So I just find it ironic that you make these statements about me when in reality I think it's you that is doing these things."

Other study commissioners also expressed mixed feelings about Mattare's candidacy. Kristen Wing said that in her opinion, Mattare's campaign suggests that he supports maintaining the current form of government. 

"When I joined this group, I came with a blank slate. I didn't come with a preconceived notion," Wing said. "When I read the article in the paper, it gave me pause."

Twice Wednesday, study member Bryant Bushling said Wing's comment of "pause" was "a very low standard" to ask Mattare to resign from the commission.

Later in the meeting, both Wing and fellow study commissioner Tamara Bateson said they have repeatedly felt "beat up" for their comments during group discussions. Several fellow commission members apologized.

Mattare said he asked county legal counsel if his candidacy would be inappropriate during the study and was told it would not.

"Part of the reason I've thrown my hat in was because of the issues I've learned by being on this commission," Mattare said. "There's a lot of issues in our county government that are not getting addressed, and they need someone who can address them." 

Any recommended change in the form of government put forth by the study commission would be decided by the voters. If voters approve a change, it would be implemented regardless of who's in office.