Commissioners SCRAP ZOOM Against Public Outcry
by Shari Dovale
Tuesday’s Bonner County Commissioner (BOCC) business meeting seemed quite combative, with 2 of the 3 commissioners putting forth all appearances of ignoring the public comments in favor of their predetermined agenda.
The public filled the room prior to the meeting with the online zoom hosting at least 25 additional people. This was one of the largest meetings held in recent months, showing the increasing interest by the public in the business affairs of the Bonner County Commissioners.
The BOCC posted the agenda showing that the zoom meetings would be discussed in executive session, instead of through open public meetings.
Though they covered several items of interest, the public comment section was dominated by requests to keep the Zoom application for online access. Likewise, the public requested that the discussion be held publicly instead of hiding it behind the closed doors of executive session.
Executive session has been known to give every appearance of being abused in recent years with the past board, of which Chairman Steven Bradshaw was a member. Now that he is Chairman, he seems determined to continue running the county the same way, showing a decided lack of transparency, and keeping every issue in executive session.
In a recent meeting, Bradshaw made this point very clear:
“Every policy change that has come before the board in the last 4 years has been discussed in executive session,” Bradshaw stated during the public meeting.
“That is the time the 3 commissioners can actually have a conversation on an item that is going to be voted on. And so after that executive session, that policy change or that policy adaptation would either be shot down or moved forward,” he continued. “When it is moved forward, then it is on the agenda and made public at that point.”
“I am not willing to change that,” Bradshaw said.
Multiple reasons were cited by many members of the public, including health reasons and limited access from remote areas of the county, with several additional reasons given for not being able to attend in person.
Further, it was brought up that the online meetings had been initially forced upon the public during the past three years, and the public was made to accept and adapt to these changes.
Now that they have, and adjusted their lives accordingly, they are not being given adequate time to discuss why the Chairman and VICE Chairman are so eager to scrap the zoom application altogether.
Later, after the executive session, the public meeting resumed and it was said that there had been one person that had threatened a potential lawsuit against the county over the zoom meetings.
Commissioner Omodt labeled this person “litigious.” They do not seem concerned over possible lawsuits in favor of the zoom meetings, including those under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Now that the 2 member majority has approved this new policy, it should be noted that the county has officially given in to the minority without any concern at all for the majority. It suggests an alarmist attitude or potential for a tenure filled with excuses.
Commissioner Asia Williams made very fervent requests on behalf of her constituents to keep the zoom meetings, including offering solutions and alternatives to minimize the fears of the other 2 commissioners. These requests were obviously ignored.
During the past few meetings, it has been noticed by multiple people in the county that Chairman Steven Bradshaw and his vice chair, Luke Omodt, have gone out of their way to publicly disrespect the only female on the board, Commissioner Asia Williams. They have repeatedly shown their bias, which now extends to the people in the county.
This was brought up during public comment by numerous people. The people in the county are getting fed up with the apparent bullying by the 2 male commissioners.
Furthermore, the 2 commissioners have made every indication they intend to use their limited majority to diminish the effectiveness of Commissioner Williams. This is a direct slap to the people they are supposed to represent.
Asia Williams won the seat, and rightly so. The people have spoken. Though Steve Bradshaw worked very hard on the campaign for her opponent, they lost. Bradshaw needs to get over it.