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.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Smell in Kootenai County Is Stronger...and Spreading

On March 2, 2005, I posted Worthy of Trust and Confidence? in which I bluntly stated that I no longer had trust and confidence in Kootenai County Sheriff Watson, some members of his command staff, and the people who were on the administrative review board for the Grouse Meadows shooting.

On March 11, 2005, I posted When Events Don't Make Sense, Ask Questions. That post questioned the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Captain Sam Grubbs from the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department while he was under investigation by the Idaho State Police. Grubbs was nearly instantly, and quite illegally, rehired at no loss in salary by the Kootenai County Commissioners to fill the Director of Kootenai County Justice Services position, a position that would not become vacant for nine months until retirement of the present director.

Now today, April 11, 2005, The Spokesman Review has published an article written by staff writer Erica Curless and headlined County aims for new settlement. Her article reveals few additional details about the reasons for Grubbs' departure from the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department but makes it abundantly clear that Grubbs was in a commanding position to control the terms of his departure. We know from this morning's article that Grubbs' rehiring at no loss in salary was in exchange for his voluntary resignation from the Sheriff's Department. The article also reveals other curious facts:
  • Grubbs may not get the county's Justice Services director position, but as Commission Chairman Gus Johnson said, "He is going to be doing something," for his $67,200 salary.
  • The Sheriff promised to keep quiet about the reasons for his requesting Grubbs' investigation by the Idaho State Police .
  • The county insurer must pay Grubbs' Boise attorney's fees.
  • Both the county legal advisor (a Boise attorney) and the Sheriff knew the district court had to also approve Grubbs' appointment to the Justice Services position but did not disclose that to the Commissioners according to Johnson.

This new information just raises more questions.

  • The County Commissioners have to approve any settlement agreement with Grubbs. Each Commissioner would reasonably want to know all the details of the incident leading to Grubbs' "voluntary" resignation. Why should they want to know? Because he might be unsuitable for any other supervisory position with the county. Yet in today's Spokesman Review article, Commission Chairman Gus Johnson pleads ignorance, explaining that the Sheriff didn't "throw up any red flags" during the settlement negotiation. Earth to Gus...earth to Gus...come in, Gus. An Idaho State Police investigation requested by the head of the dismissing agency qualifies as a huge red flag!
  • Why are the Commissioners trying so hard to enter into a very generous financial arrangement with Grubbs that would forever seal the information surrounding his departure from the Sheriff's Department?

Sometimes the absence of information can reveal as much as its presence.

During the Nixon-Watergate investigation there was found to be an 18-1/2 minute gap in one of the most crucial Oval Office tapes in which Nixon and his co-conspirators were very likely discussing the burglary. Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods (now deceased), took the fall and lied when she claimed she had accidentally erased the tape while transcribing it. Subsequent forensic examination of the 18-1/2 minute gap showed it had been erased from three to five times. Not an accident.

The Idaho State Police's (ISP) report of the December 28, 2004, Grouse Meadows shooting which resulted in Michael Madonna's death also has a time gap in it. The gap is in the crime scene log. Page 1 of 3 of the Kootenai County Sheriff's Department Crime Scene Log begins with an "out" entry on 12-28-04 at 00:40 and ends with an "in" entry at 01:59. There are no further "in" or "out" entries in the log until an "in" entry on 12-28 at 04:31. Notably, this entry is the first entry on an unnumbered page of the Crime Scene Log. That is, at the top right hand corner where the phrase "Page___ of ___" is preprinted, the blanks are unfilled. The apparent third page of the log is not on a Kootenai County Sheriff's Department Crime Scene Log sheet; it is on a blank piece of paper. It has no page number.

Why no Crime Scene Log entries between 01:59 and 04:31 on December 28, 2004? Why the 2 hour, 32 minute gap in the Crime Scene Log? We can be pretty certain that some people entered and left the crime scene during this time. For example, Deputies Bangs and Smart were interviewed at the Kootenai County Marine Building starting at approximately 03:40 on December 28. Their departure from the scene would have been logged. The time between 01:59 and 04:31 is also the time bracket in which one would reasonably expect "the brass" to show up at the shooting scene since the shootings occurred between 00:13 and 00:18 according to radio transcripts. Their crime scene entries and exits would have been logged.

Grubbs was the Captain in charge of patrol deputies and investigators. He would logically and properly have gone to the crime scene shortly after the shootings. Yet the Crime Scene Log in the ISP report seems to indicate he was there for only five minutes, between 13:26 and 13:31 on December 28.

I'm not suggesting that anyone involved in keeping the Crime Scene Log did anything improper. Indeed, the log's keeper may have done precisely what the law required: preserved evidence. Did the unredacted Crime Scene Log put Captain Sam Grubbs there during the time gap ? If so, if he was there, did he do or say anything that might have given the Sheriff cause to suspend him? The Crime Scene Log would have been evidence in the homicide investigation, and it would have been properly withheld by the ISP as evidence in any subsequent and ongoing investigation of Grubbs' on-scene conduct by the ISP.

The burning question is, why is the county negotiating at all with Sam Grubbs? Why is he able to control the terms of his departure? Is there something Grubbs might say in a deposition or in court that would cause some serious heartburn for one or more elected officials in Kootenai County?


Blogger Bay Views said...

Well said...Something indeed stinks. My broadband is down again...Adelphia says it's system wide. I hope they get it fixed soon.


2:23 PM, April 11, 2005  

Post a Comment

<< Home