Gun ban lawsuit’s cost questioned

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SANDPOINT — Each Bonner County commissioners meetings contain a time for public comment. This Tuesday, the comments came from long-time resident Rebecca Holland, who said she was pleased that there was an agenda item to discuss the War Memorial Field firearm ban litigation and that she had some questions.

“I’ve been a resident for 44 years,” Holland told the group. “I’ve been trying for four months to get records regarding the Festival law suit, but, most of my requests have been denied. I think there are few taxpayers who pay their bills without knowing what they’re for, and without documentation we know nothing more than around twenty-eight grand was paid out.”

Holland had three primary questions — what was covered in the expenditure so far, what was the status of the lawsuit and what will the total cost be to taxpayers.

Scott Bauer, county attorney, said that although the county would like to err on the side of transparency, it would be tipping their hand to disclose how much they were willing to spend.

“Sometimes it’s posturing,” Bauer said. “Typically these discussions are held in executive session to protect vulnerabilities without exposing weaknesses.”

Commissioner Chair Dan McDonald pointed out that document requests also cost the taxpayers money and asked if Holland intended to ask the same questions of the city of Sandpoint.

One member of the audience commended the commission for protecting the right to keep and bear arms. Another member of the audience pointed out that it was a unique situation for county residents who live in the Sandpoint city limits to be responsible for both parts of the expenditure.

Exceeding the three minute time limit, Holland was invited to remain after the meeting to talk to commissioners. “This is a place for public comment,” McDonald said. “Not a Q&A.”

The impetus for Holland’s questions was the agenda item that stated an action item was needed regarding the Davillier Retainer Agreement. Davillier is the law firm handling not just the War Memorial Field firearm ban litigation, but also general aviation matters and general matters. Bauer said that some of this litigation is very specialized and outside his purview.

The approval being sought is to amend the contract with Davillier to include a new attorney to replace one who left the firm. Bauer said that Amy Clemmons, the proposed replacement attorney, has good experience and has worked at the office of the Attorney General in the State of Washington.

The website, (founded to help people find a lawyer) states that Clemmons handles cases in civil rights; state, local and municipal law; constitutional; consumer protection; employment and labor; and general practice law. She’s been licensed for 26 years and attended Gonzaga University.

Other business at hand included approving expenditures, grant applications, transfer of funds, destructing outdated records and clearing trees and brush to avoid more accidents in high risk areas.

Justice Services Department Director, Ron Stultz told commissioners that Juvenile Detention and Probation Services would be receiving unexpected revenue. First, because of contracts with outlying areas to house juveniles, the county will receive $59,979 over projections.

Thanks to the lottery tax money, the unexpected revenue will amount to $13,699. These funds are a result of a tax imposed on winners of the lottery and are not projected.

“I’d like to be one of those winners,” Stultz said. “But, oh well. We’re just happy to get it.

The last windfall from the state comes from the cigarette tax to the tune of $83,205. Stultz said that it most likely includes money from tobacco and vaping. Commissioner Steven Bradshaw said, “That’s a lot of cigarettes!”

Nate Demmons, Bonner County Parks and Waterways Recreation Manager asked for approval to retain just over $73,000 in vessel taxes to complete projects in the fiscal year of 2020. This is a case of “use it or lose it” back to the state. One of the projects included in retaining these surplus funds will replace the outhouse in Garfield Bay that’s nicknamed “Old Woody” with a vault bathroom. Approval was given.

And, finally in this day’s business was approving writing a letter of support to adding a judge in First Judicial Court. McDonald said that the state initiates and dictates how many judges are needed.

An audience member questioned what it would cost the county and pointed out that some infrastructure would be necessary. McDonald agreed with the resident and said that the county doesn’t have a choice in the matter that the state will decide in the next year or so. He said that he’s been over to the court house to see what could be done if this were to happen.

“We see a need for a judge,” McDonald said. “But, we’re not excited to put more money into the courthouse after what happened a few years ago.” However, the county’s district judge is carrying the largest case load in the state due to increased population and increased crime.

The commissioners meet every Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Bonner County Administration Building, 1500 Highway 2, on the third floor. The agenda is posted 48 hours prior to the meeting at

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