Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Friday, March 11, 2005

When Events Don't Make Sense, Ask Questions

The publicly-reported circumstances of Sam Grubbs' departure from the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department (KCSD) and his lickety-split rehiring to replace Juvenile Justice Services Director Allan Friesen when he retires in nine months simply don't add up.

Newspaper accounts of Grubbs' departure from KCSD had Grubbs being placed on paid administrative leave while the Idaho State Police (ISP) conducted an investigation into what Sheriff Rocky Watson characterized as a "noncriminal personnel issue" and "philosophical differences, a difference in management style between Sam and I (sic)." Suddenly, Grubbs resigned to accept the top juvie job, and the ISP investigation was terminated.

Then Thursday, March 10, 2005, the Coeur d'Alene Press reported that the County Commissioners didn't have the authority to do the aforementioned lickety-split hiring of Grubbs. That determination came from First District Judge Charles Hosack on Tuesday.

All this raises questions.

  1. What was the noncriminal personnel issue that required the ISP investigation? Wouldn't a noncriminal personnel investigation have been done by the county's human resources department? C'mon, folks, the ISP does not investigate another agency's philosophical differences in management style. This was much deeper than that.
  2. At the time of his suspension on January 3, 2005, from KCSD, Grubbs was in charge of patrol and detective divisions. The timing of his suspension is noticeably coincident with the investigations into the December 28, 2004, shooting death of Michael Madonna by KCSD patrol deputies. Is there a connection between Grubbs' departure from KCSD and the notably deficient administrative review of the deputies' actions before the actual shooting started?
  3. Had Friesen officially submitted his retirement papers with a specific retirement date before Grubbs suddenly became available? Had Friesen formally declared his intention to retire?
  4. Since Grubbs was under investigation by the ISP, why would the County Commissioners even consider hiring him before knowing the results of the investigation? Without knowing what the investigation might reveal, the Commissioners could be hiring someone unsuitable for the job. Why wouldn't the Commissioners wait for the ISP investigation's results? What was the rush? Were they afraid what the investigation might reveal if it were completed?
  5. Grubbs was leaving KCSD under a cloud, yet the Commissioners couldn't wait to hire him at the same salary he received from KCSD to eliminate the need to advertise the director's position. Why wouldn't the county want to advertise for the position to get the best qualified applicants? It had nine months! It's not as if Friesen was walking out the door the next week.
  6. Was Grubbs' accelerated hiring into the new position an incentive to get him to leave KCSD quietly and quickly? If so, who is trying to hide what?
  7. Why is the county's insurance carrier paying Grubbs' salary? What was nine months' salary cheaper than, a lawsuit? This sounds like a risk aversion strategy to avoid the discovery that a very public lawsuit would have disclosed.
  8. Some overlap can be beneficial, but two directors receiving full pay for nine months seems a bit much for a position that, if we believe Commissioner Rick Currie, Grubbs was already prepared by knowledge and ability to occupy. In light of Judge Hosack's ruling, Grubbs' pay ought to stop immediately. If it doesn't, ask why.
  9. Who from the county attorney's office advised the Commissioners that hiring Grubbs did not require the court involvement prescribed in Idaho Code? Or did the Commissioners even ask?
  10. The Coeur d'Alene Press article cited earlier also said that based on Judge Hosack's ruling, Grubbs would now have to go through a formal hiring process that involves the state Administrator for the Courts and the Idaho Association of Counties Executive Director as well as county and court officials. Doesn't that mean the county must now advertise the director's position? Or is this committee being convened just to rubber stamp Grubbs' appointment?

I'd sure like to have these questions answered. Hopefully, so will Judge Hosack, Idaho Administrator of the Courts Director Patty Tobias, and Idaho Association of Counties Executive Director Daniel Chadwick. The smell here in Kootenai County is not all coming from the Fightin' Creek landfill.


Blogger Happy X. Dopey said...

Very nice points!! Let's see what I can add if anything...First, you are clearly right, ISP would not waste their time or resources on anything less than a potential criminal violation.

Second, the timing of his suspension was awfully convenient wasn't it (with reference to the shooting). My take on the matter is that it started with something related to that issue and grew into much more.

Third, a better question than why would the commissioners would consider Grubbs for the position, is why would they appoint him and direct the Sheriff to end the internal investigation to do so.

Fourth, it seems likely that the person providing legal advice to the commissioners would be Erika Ellingsen, Legal Counsel and, not coincadentally Grubbs' wife.

Finally, why has there not been more media focus on this issue. As you said, the issue is clearly the source of a certain stench and would be, I feel, quite newsworthy.

5:36 AM, March 13, 2005  

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