Just so you know, this will be a two-part article. Let’s see if I can unpack this article and its implications the way I see it in my head. In part one, I’d like to unpack the actual news story and then in part two, I’d like to try to apply this to the Republican Party.
First the news story. This gem is from a website that caters to news in the far north of Idaho. (FYI per the people that live there, its North Idaho not Northern Idaho.) In the interest of fairness, the proprietor of the news site is a pro-abortion liberal that hates Donald Trump. Trust me when I say that with his politics, this guy’s truly a minority in his county of residence. I only point this out because the line between news and opinion is blurred somewhat in the article that I’m about to cite. Also, I wish to stay out of the personalities and personal accusations in this article. As Jack Webb used to say, “Just the facts”.
A tort claim on behalf of four whistleblowers was delivered to the Boundary County Free Library District Board at its May meeting this morning seeking the immediate resignation of the entire board and the immediate discharge of two library employees as a show of good faith so as to enter federal mediation requested about six months ago to resolve an array of issues and alleged crimes.
“For the sake of this community, as well as the brave four I am privileged to represent, I urge you to abandon the tactics of falsehood, threat and bluster, and act in the interest of the public you claim so fervently to faithfully serve,” attorney Jeff Boiler wrote on behalf of his wife, librarian Dana Boiler, and librarian Cari Haarstick, who are both still on administrative leave with pay since the library reopened July 23, 2021, after a three month emergency closure, and librarians Christine “Mac” Withers and Eric Lindenbusch, who were also placed on paid leave July 23 until February 28, when both were fired.
The tort claim itself can be read here. The accompanying documentation is too lengthy to post.Library’s woes not over yet
Specific and detailed allegations include manipulating elections.
“The library was run by Sandra Ashworth for about 20 years, from approximately 1997 through her full PERSI retirement in about 2017,” the claim reads. “During her tenure as Director, public records attached prove that not a single election was actually held for any position held by a Trustee. A plan was developed and implemented by Ashworth and others during her directorship, whereby the public was not given lawful or meaningful notice of vacancy or that Trustee positions were up for election. Instead, Ashworth selected people from the community who would allow her to control all aspects of library operations without any public accountability. During this time, estimates from available budget records suggest Ashworth controlled about $10.5 million in public funds made available from property taxes levied by the County and provided to the District in a lump sum.”
The tort alleges that none of the trustees who served during Ashworth’s tenure actually stood for election, notices of vacancies seldom posted as required, one handpicked candidate urged to file notice of candidacy right before deadline and elections called off because only one candidate had filed.
That candidate was then named a trustee.
“In short, she ran the library as though it were an organized criminal enterprise, violating elections laws subject to criminal sanction, and did so for an extensive period of time,” Boiler wrote. “Perhaps worst of all to a community so rich in faith, she concealed all these actions under the meek clerical garb of a devout Mennonite Christian, while her conduct summarized in the attachment is better described as the activity of a ravenous wolf.”
The claim also details allegations of deliberate, willful and systematic violations of open meeting laws to conceal fraud, waste and mismanagement, retaliation and personal attacks on his clients, “whistleblowers” who, “without making any claim of personal damage,” sought constructive resolution of all the issues broadly outlined as part of the then-management crisis.
“The sad truth is that this public agency has been used by a small cadre of men and women to further unlawful means, and to avoid public accountability for massive breaches of public trust to the voters and taxpayers of this county, for many years,” Boiler concluded. “The specificity chosen to be included here is so that these citizens may finally know the truth, and be given a clear choice on how and where accountability for these unlawful actions will be imposed. It is the choice of the Board and its insurer on which is in the public interest, and which is in the personal interests of a select few who have caused, allowed or concealed this gross abuse of public trust to exist, flourish and continue. Whether that choice is public and involuntary, or private and voluntary, is entirely up to the District, its legal representatives, and its insurer.
Folks, as I said before, I don’t know the people and personalities in this mess so I will refrain from commenting on them and stick to the issue that caught my eye, this public board went 20 years without any elections which are required by State Law.
The lawsuit details more about elections and public records violations. For the sake of brevity, I am leaving out other charges not related to what I wish to discuss. Here is a partial list of alleged wrongdoing:
- Elections fraud or other criminal violation of State law regarding the conduct of District elections;
- Unsworn falsification; Crimes relating to official misconduct and self-dealing of public employees;
- Unlawful alteration, falsification or destruction of public records;
- Creating, altering, making, destroying, falsifying, or conspiring to so do, any public record;
- Unlawful creation, maintenance, destruction, sale or alteration of public records or public property, including without limitation records of all Board proceedings and all other actions of any member of the Board of Trustees of the District undertaken under color and pretense of law relating or pertaining to any Claimant or attorney for any Claimant, all without limitation;
- Crimes relating to the conduct of any District election, or relating to recordkeeping for such elections, at any time;
Further on in the text of the lawsuit is an extensive narrative related to elections.
I. The District Manipulated Elections to Conceal Violations of Idaho Election Law
• The library was run by Sandra Ashworth for about 20 years, from approximately 1997 through her full PERSI retirement in about 2017. During this time, she presided over an election process for Trustees of the District, who stand for election at statutorily set 13 intervals of 5 or 6 years, given statutory changes to the process made in 2011. After 2011, the County Clerk presided over these elections. Prior to that, the Director of the library did. Ashworth was the Director for a period spanning application of both statutory schemes.
• During her tenure as Director, public records attached prove that not a single election was actually held for any position held by a Trustee. A plan was developed and implemented by Ashworth and others during her directorship, whereby the public was not given lawful or meaningful notice of vacancy or that Trustee positions were up for election. Instead, Ashworth selected people from the community who would allow her to control all aspects of library operations without any public accountability. During this time, estimates from available budget records suggest Ashworth controlled about $10.5 million in public funds made available from property taxes levied by the County and provided to the District in a lump sum. She also urged and unsuccessfully attempted to pass a public bond issue for creation of a “People’s University” building facility for her library legacy. Public records show the bond election for this proposal was soundly defeated, but would have given her control over another $8 million in public property tax money to spend in furtherance of her legacy.
• As the attached election records and graphs produced for assisting public understanding of how this principle worked clearly show, all Trustees serving during her tenure actually did not stand for election. Instead, typically the records inspected show that, usually with one day of the deadline for public declaration of candidacy, a chosen ally of Ashworth, or someone acceptable to her, was urged to file a notice of candidacy. One day later, applications would close. The statutorily required notices of vacancy were typically never posted as required by law, a criminal violation under Idaho Code. Under that Code, if only one person filed (and typically no one was given public notice of any vacancy to insure this would be the case), Ashworth would advise the Commissioners a week prior to the scheduled election that under another Code provision, no election need be held, and the sole candidate would be sworn in for a five or six year term without any public knowledge or input.
• This plan worked well, and was used to such effect she apparently grew overconfident in her ability to dupe the public using this method of control of public funding. In 2010 she wrote the Commissioners that an actual election was held (see Election summaries attached) and she even named the winner. In fact, it appears this was a complete fabrication. No election in fact occurred, no certification of election was made by the Commissioners, and no one said anything about it.
• As a result, this practice continued long after the statutory amendments to the elections law of Idaho, which were substantially revised to prevent such manipulation of the process by small Districts, which were until that time not under County Clerk supervision. In fact, Ashworth so completely ignored the statutory scheme instituted by the Legislature that virtually all elections that are memorialized by any records whatsoever (see charts and public records of election, attached) were “held” in the wrong year. In the alternative, she installed ineligible candidates without being sworn in, so as to make their participation at least outwardly lawful; she altered Zone maps to allow individuals not eligible for the position due to their place of residence to sit as Board members for others outside their District; she threatened one whistleblower with termination if her father, intending to run for Trustee, in fact served, stating “it’s him or you”; she used physical force on the same whistleblower with concealed, painful arm holds to make her point sincerely.
In short, she ran the library as though it were an organized criminal enterprise, violating elections laws subject to criminal sanction, and did so for an extensive period of time.
Perhaps worst of all to a community so rich in faith, she concealed all these actions under the meek clerical garb of a devout Mennonite Christian, while her conduct summarized in the attachment is better described as the activity of a ravenous wolf.
When she returned to “save” the library as a “humanitarian” in 2021, her hypocrisy continued and grew with open encouragement from a Board of Trustees who show by the evidence attached perhaps the most grossly mismanaged and arrogantly lawless, in virtually all respects, of any reported case on the subject in the history of the State of Idaho. Examples abound, see attached.
• The elections summaries attached clearly establish beyond doubt also, that as a result of these practices, virtually no Trustee of the District has served lawfully during their tenure, having been installed by manipulation of the process, having applied for sole candidacy in the wrong year, serving from the wrong District, or having never been sworn in as required by law. Taxpayers of the county were deliberately kept unaware of this situation, which was tolerated by the County Clerk even after the statutory changes. The excuse given by the clerk to date on investigation: “Nobody cares about the library, anyway.”
The facts attached and discussed in part above establish that the District, while under the control of Sandra Ashworth’s Directorship, has violated Idaho Criminal Code 18-23, relating to elections, in the following ways:
• Served longer terms than designated by statute
• Failed to hold a scheduled and notified election
• Failed to run elections in their proper years
• Failed to give statutory notice to the public of elections
• Failed to give statutory notice to the public of filing deadlines
• Failed to give statutory notice to the public of trustee vacancies
• Failed to notify the Clerk of trustee appointments
• Knowingly installed Trustees to allow their service outside their voting zone
• Failed to notify the Commissioners and properly certify elections
• Falsely represent to Commissioners that elections held, and reported false results
• Engaged in practices designed to avoid holding free elections under Code
• Failed to swear in trustees according to statute
• Falsified election results when the Library District ran their own election prior to 2011
• Engaged in intimidation tactics to deter potential candidates from running for office, including use of physical force and unlawful retaliation against Cari Haarstick for her father’s participation as candidate for Trustee office
• Actively encouraged District employees from public participation in elections process or public meetings on own time, punished employees for exercise of rights of free speech outside the workplace on matters of public concern summarized in part above.
By operation of Idaho Criminal Code 18-23 discussed above, each of the listed acts or omissions constitutes a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison, among other things.
The attachments relating to elections are particularly helpful in understanding the nature, scope and subsequent impacts caused by this pattern of unlawful activity. It directly relates to the retaliation against the Claimants herein, and provides motive and context for the relentless and unexplained hostility of the District, and virtually all its representatives mentioned specifically in the attachments to this Notice.
The short conclusion to be drawn from all the evidence attached is simply this: Sandra Ashworth and other representatives of the District named in this Notice have presided over a deliberate and concealed abuse of public trust involving manipulation and control of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, over a period of decades. As a result, a culture of lawlessness and concealment of all forms of wrongdoing complained of in this Notice and evidenced in part by the extensive evidence summarized in the attachments and discussed here, has flourished and grown.
It is that culture of lawlessness and concealment that has created the dangerous atmosphere itemized in this Notice, including danger to children, and acts in aid of terrorism summarized in the attachments. The retaliation against the four employees giving this notice of claim is a reflex reaction to protect all involved against public disclosure of what has truly developed into an ongoing lawless enterprise, using taxpayer money to fund it’s purposes and goals, while concealing the truth from the taxpaying public.
That this is the case is reinforced by the deliberate and systematic disregard of public records and open meetings laws of the State of Idaho, summarized below.
Folks this situation stinks; however, many are defending the librarian and her posse. Why? Because she’s a nice lady.
Yep, my wife—who is the one that showed me this article—told me that she saw the original article as a Facebook post. So, I took a look on Facebook and almost to a man, nobody cared about the substance of what was done or not done. Furthermore, nobody is denying that the elections were never held.
Here’s a few examples
Folks this is happening in self-declared Trump Country of Idaho.
I can’t tell you how angry this makes me that a public employee can just ignore the law and do what she damn well pleases, and nobody cares. Instead, citizens are angry at the nasty lawyer picking on the nice little old librarian.
Librarian Sandra Ashworth ignored election law, handpicked her governing board—you know, the people that were supposed to provide public oversight of how she ran the library and spent public funds—and she even gerrymandered district lines or outright ignored them, again without proper oversight, in order to get her handpicked board members seated. She continued this behavior long enough to get a public pension from her 20 years at the library. During her time running the library, she controlled and spent about 10.5 million dollars.
Again, nobody is disputing these charges (can we just call them facts?); instead, Sandra was nice so we should not apply the law to her. Folks when there’s one set of laws for your friends or nice people or folks like you and a different set of rules for others then you believe in tyranny. Whenever you encounter such a situation, its tyranny, we are just arguing degrees of difference between the people in charge and everyone else.