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Can it get more interesting?

September 29, 2023

By Mike Weland

"It's weird it happened when it did," now former Bonners Ferry Mayor Dick Staples said of the timing of his decision to resign so as to allow the city to be able to consider his son, Ben, as an applicant to manage its golf course, Mirror Lake. "It would have been much simpler had it happened any other way." The saga began around early June, when course pro Ralph Lotspeich gave notice of his retirement at the end of a distinguished 21 year career here.

While minutes of that and subsequent city council meeting minutes are not yet available, a special golf selection subcommittee was formed to make recommendations to the city as to filling Ralph's position.

According to Staples, that subcommittee forwarded a recommendation to the city council favorable to Ben. To allow that recommendation to be considered and carried forward, and based on the counsel of city attorney Andrakay Pluid, he elected to resign.

"My son's welfare is most important to me," he said.

On Tuesday, there will be discussion, undoubtedly interesting, at the Bonners Ferry City Council meeting.

But it's an election year ... and, for Bonners Ferry Mayor, an election year with but one candidate, former Mayor Dick Staples. In fact, only one Boundary County election was challenged, that of Moyie Springs City Council, and that race was cancelled by the resignation of Mayor Steve Economu due to health issues, the appointment of councilman and candidate Geoff Hollenbeck as mayor and the subsequent appointment of challenger Pat Stevens as a member of the Moyie Springs City Council. With that appointment, there were no contested elections and hence no need for a 2023 Boundary County general election.

Which means that, as of 8 p.m. Tuesday, November 7, all the unchallenged candidates in an election that wasn't held will be considered candidates elect ... eligible to take oaths of office and be sworn in January, 2024.

"Does Dick Staples' resignation as mayor, while he's an unchallenged candidate for that office, mean that he will be named mayor-elect once polls close November 7?" I asked county elections clerk Cherry Grainger, "or will council president Rick Alonzo, whose term also expires this year, and is also running unchallenged but who is likely to be appointed mayor next week, stay mayor and the council and mayor appoint a new member to the council?"

"It all depends on what Mr. Staples plans to do," she replied. "He did not withdraw his candidacy by the deadline, which was September 22."

"I provided legal advice to my client (Council/Mayor) on what I feel are the legal issues of a member of the mayor or council's family within the second degree being hired as a contractor by the City," Pluid wrote. "Applicable code sections include, but are not necessarily limited to: IC 74-501-511, IC 18-1351-1362. Consideration of City Policy, while important, is secondary to the Idaho Code Sections listed previously. It is my opinion that, Mayor Staples' son (or any other family member within the second degree), may not hold the golf course contract while their relative within the second degree (father, in the situation at hand), serves as mayor or a councilmember. At this point, the Council has not been presented with recommendations from the Golf Selection Committee, but if the ultimate direction provided to staff is to enter contract negotiations with Ben Staples, my advice is/will be that the contract would need to include a termination provision that would void the contract immediately if any member of his family within the second degree were to be sworn in as mayor or council during the term of his contract."

Mayor Staples is well aware of how unique this situation is. And he's hedging his bets.

If Ben is offered a Mirror Lake position between now and January 2, he said, and a contract is agreed to between his son and the city council, he will not take the oath of office January 2. If not, he said, he might.

Questions or Comments? Send us an email!

Mike Weland, Publisher

6931 Main St.
6619 Kaniksu St., Rm 19
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805
(208) 295-1016

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