Taxpayer Sues LPOSD Over Election Violation
A North Idaho property owner has filed suit regarding the November violation of election law by the Lake Pend Oreille School District (LPOSD).
“The district put forth an illegal ballot and basically admitted it when they ran the levy question in November, and instead of re-running a corrected ballot, they amazingly have snubbed their noses at the voters,” said Jason Giddings, spokesperson for Idaho Tax Watch (ITW), a non-profit citizens group based in Bonner County who are supporting the taxpayer challenging the levy’s legality.
At the heart of the controversy is the district’s failure to include ballot language required by Idaho law disclosing what the cost of the levy would be per $100,000.00 of taxable property value.
“The district submitted a ballot to the elections office which was incomplete. It would be like three candidates running for mayor and the ballot only showed two. What would be the right thing to do? Re-run a corrected ballot,” said Anna Largen, ITW president.
In the 2019 Idaho legislative session, Representative Doug Ricks (R-Rexburg) put forth HB 103 that required these disclosures in collaboration with a constituent. (see notes for contact info). This constituent, speaking on terms of anonymity, confirmed “Representative Ricks and I and others collaborated on this disclosure bill and it passed each committee and the House and Senate unanimously. This became law July 1, 2019 and the intent was that, like all laws, it be followed.”
The violation raises broader concerns.
“Our group has obtained troubling details of questionable actions by the district after the election. Records we have show that not only has the district acknowledged the violation, but the very day after the election spent about $10,000.00 of our tax money to hire attorneys to defend what we see as illegal actions,” Giddings continues.
According to the county, citizens have 40 days to challenge an election and no challenge came until December 23, 2019.
“It appears they knew right off that they had violated Idaho law. It took over a month, but resident Don Skinner came forward to challenge the ballot. Don has had to spend $25,000.00 in attorney fees, and an additional $10,000.00 bond. It is apparent that the district’s legal team seems to be trying to squash him financially. We find these legal tactics used against our own neighbor and fellow taxpayer unconscionable,” added Giddings.
“Instead of conceding a ballot error and re-running the question on the next ballot, the district has committed to pay about five attorneys approximately $60,000.00—more than $31,000.00 of that amount having already been paid out—of our tax dollars that are meant for education, to somehow defend their violation. We are flabbergasted. The community has trusted the district with our children. Public school districts are required to follow the law, and we expect them to teach our children the values of honesty and doing the right thing. To many of us, the district’s doubling down and spending of our money to defend a law violation is just sending the wrong moral signal to our community and to our children. The district is quickly losing the trust of the community on this one,” Giddings concluded.
Idaho Tax Watch is collecting donations to help Don Skinner’s legal battle and runs an active Facebook page and website, www.idahotaxwatch.com.
“We have obtained a lot of legal papers and many financial records from the district and have posted them on our Facebook page. When citizens see the legal bills, and then learn that the district commissioned about a $10,000.00 expenditure the day after the election and titled it ‘Election Challenge,’ most find that extremely disturbing.”
The lawsuit could be settled in March.
Press Release: Idaho Tax Watch
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