Breaking News
Home » Rockies » Idaho » Boise » Opinion: Tibbs’ Complaint Against Bieter Backfires
If a candidate accuses his opponent of unethical conduct and goes so far as to use the serious word “graft,” the accuser should have a firm hand on the details. At least that’s my theory. But after a Wednesday press conference when he released a statement charging Mayor Dave Bieter of using taxpayer money to hire his campaign consultant for a city contract, it became clear Jim Tibbs’ story was just that: a story.

Opinion: Tibbs’ Complaint Against Bieter Backfires

If a candidate accuses his opponent of unethical conduct and goes so far as to use the serious word “graft,” the accuser should have a firm hand on the details. At least that’s my theory.

But after a Wednesday press conference when he released a statement charging Mayor Dave Bieter of using taxpayer money to hire his campaign consultant for a city contract, it became clear Jim Tibbs’ story was just that: a story.

“What we have seen here is why people don’t trust elected officials. This is a case of political payback and graft like I have never seen in Boise,” Tibbs, a member of the City Council, said Wednesday. “To have the Gallatin Group on Dave Bieter’s payroll and ask for $65,000 in a city contract on their behalf is outrageous — it doesn’t come close to passing the smell test.”

Tibbs pointed a finger at Bieter for “failing to disclose to the Council a business relationship with the Gallatin Group.”

But in a July 20 memo from the Mayor to the city council, Bieter not only did just that, he took himself out of the vote.

“As you may know, Gallatin’s president, Marc Johnson, is a member of my campaign finance committee. However, the project leader on this effort will be one of Gallatin’s principals, Lyn Darrington, whose efforts on behalf of the City of Boise during the last [legislative] session yielded concrete results, including identified funding for the community detox facility.”

“To avoid any appearance of conflict, I will recuse myself from participating in the decision whether to accept Gallatin’s proposal and leave it in the City Council’s hands.”

Several city council members were mightily miffed at Tibbs after yesterday’s press conference.

According to council president MaryAnn Jordan, Tibbs had stated at the July 24 meeting’s outset that he would have to leave early for a doctor’s appointment.

“That’s when he had not only the right, but the responsibility to say he had a problem with an issue for which he would miss the discussion, and it would have been moved to the next meeting’s agenda,” Jordan told New West. “That’s very common; we do it all the time.”

Minutes of the July 24 meeting show that Tibbs left the noon meeting at 1:25. The project was approved after that.

Jordan continued, “Also, at the following meeting on July 31, he had a legal right to ask for reconsideration of an issue from the previous meeting. Technically, only a member who voted with the majority has the right to request a do-over, but again, it is routine for that right to be granted to anyone. All that happens is that someone from the prevailing side makes a motion and there you go. He didn’t do that.”

“He didn’t even grant the voters the courtesy and responsibility of following standard procedure. He’s not new; he’s been there two years; he knows this stuff.”

The Idaho Statesman reports that Councilman Alan Shealy said, “This is a smart council. We don’t get duped very often. We didn’t make a mistake. We were fully apprised of all the potential conflicts of interest,” Shealy said. “Mr. Tibbs engineered a situation where he would be absent from the vote. In my opinion, he is being disingenuous in the way he is portraying this situation.”

Tibbs’ complaint to the Ethics Commission, which was established by Bieter to help clean up the scandal-scarred “mess in City Hall,” as Boiseans say, also claims that Bieter “failed to present the Council with alternative contracts or providers. In his letter to the Council, he directly recommended one and one only [sic] option – the Gallatin Group.”

But city records show that a Request for Proposal was issued in December of 2006, and three firms responded: Elam & Burke, Veritas Advisors and the Gallatin Group.

Gallatin is a communications consulting firm with offices in four western states and Washington, D.C. The local office is headed by Marc Johnson, who was Governor Cecil Andrus’ chief of staff. The company was paid $4,280 by the Bieter for Mayor campaign in 2006.

The city contract with Gallatin is for mobilizing legislative, local leadership, and public support for a local-option tax to pay for mass transit. (The 2007 state legislature denied cities the right to use such taxes.) The contract states that Johnson will not manage the project for which the city has now hired his firm, but Tibbs claims that doesn’t matter and that Johnson “stands to profit at minimum indirectly if not directly from this contract.”

What Tibbs doesn’t say is what’s wrong with that. Businesses are entitled to make money, and this contract was approved after all procedures were followed – except by Tibbs – and all parties were officially made aware of Bieter’s relationship with the consulting firm.

At the press conference, I asked Tibbs, “Are you directly accusing the mayor of manipulating the council’s schedule so that you weren’t there for the vote?”

Tibbs was cautious. “That will be up to the Ethics Commission.”

Another reporter followed up: “You either are, or you aren’t accusing him, sir.”

Tibbs reviewed the purpose of the commission and declined to say yes or no.

Bieter said, “First of all, city government has never been more open and accountable. In fact, the very commission Mr. Tibbs is filing his complaint with is the ethics commission I started as part of my responsibility to clean up city hall and protect our citizens from even the hint of impropriety.

Second, let’s be very clear—this is about politics, not policy. It’s the cheap stunt, mudslinging approach of a candidate who either cannot or will not offer substantive positions on the issues.”

Earlier in the day, Bieter told New West, “Councilman Tibbs has yet to put forth any direct plans for city issues like air quality, growth planning, and transportation – things Boiseans tell us they’re concerned about.”

In a New West story from July 19, I wrote:

“Is there a compelling reason to fire the incumbent? The old political question which a challenger must answer, wasn’t. Tibbs has vague complaints about processes he doesn’t like and his view that leadership is going wrong, but voters make decisions based on results, not process. He doesn’t identify feature accomplishments in his career, letting Bieter have that one. He seems to have little in the way of explicit plans about what he’d do to improve Boise, choosing instead to showcase his Nice Guy status.”

Still fits.

About Jill Kuraitis

Jill Kuraitis is an award-winning journalist who specializes in news of Idaho and the Rocky Mountain West. Her B.A. in theatre management is from UC Santa Barbara, and she went on to work in theatre, film, and politics before writing became a career. Kuraitis has two excellent grown children and lives in Boise with her husband of 30 years, abundant backyard wildlife, and two huge hairy dogs.

Check Also

Downtown Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City and Boise Top Forbes List For Young Professionals

Salt Lake City, UT and Boise, ID have nabbed the top spots, respectively, in Forbes’ ...

22 comments

  1. Can you submit this as an editorial to the Statesman? I think all the voters deserve to hear about Tibb’s manipulations and machinations.

  2. ‘nuf said. Great question and good post. As I wrote elsewhere, he’s got three months and Tibbs is struggling to create an issue let alone build a platform. Pretty pathetic.

  3. Todd Shallat aka Boisean

    You say Tibbs left the July 24 meeting at 1:45? Did anyone ask for his note from the doctor? Was this a serious medical issue? Or was the doctor’s appointment orchestrated so that Tibbs could backstab his colleagues and file an ethics complaint?

    Boisean

  4. Todd Shallot, ARE YOU KIDDING! That is the most inane thing I have ever read on the internet! I would explian to you that this is not grade school, but as by your post, I doubt you would understand! WOW!!

  5. Dear WOW!!

    Yes, I was teasing. I don’t know much about grade school, but for the last 22 years I have been a college professor and thus familiar with adults who use doctor appointments to get out of things they don’t want to do. A better excuse would have been “my dog ate my council homework” because the item in question and the mayor’s bend-over-backwards disclosure were clearly posted. If the doctor was more important than council, Tibbs could have had the matter postponed.

    So no, Mr. WOW!!, I do not really want a note from Tibbs’s doctor. I want the councilman to pay attention and speak if he has something to say.

    Boisean

  6. Given your education and position Boisean, I would expect more.
    With the life long commitment to “scholarly” thought, why can’t you see through the ruse that has been presented. Dave Bieter pays Gallatin to “train” him. (for what) Dave Bieter writes letter to City council saying I know there is a conflict here but I will leave the room while you decide to approve it. (And Oh, by the way, even though the agenda says we will discuss it today and vote on it next week, we will just go ahead and pass it today by unanimous consent after Tibbs leaves) What are we hiring Gallatin to do? Why a transportation study! Never mind that the Blueprint for Growth and Compass and IACI are already doing that and this study will be redundant. Now this is the reallly cool part Boisean! Listen close. ” When they have just re-packaged the other studies, we will have a Transportation “Symposium” over at the Andrus center on campus.We will pay for it with the monies that the city has paid the Gallatin Group and it will all just be a big fat campaign function for Bieter!!” And Dave Bieter gets to benefit with 65,000.00 of taxpayer monies. What a city! What a mayor!!

  7. Interjecting a few things: Before the mayor presented Gallatin to the council, the job was put out for bidding, as is required of all major city purchases. Three firms responded (see my article above.) The council was aware of all that. I don’t know if all council members read the other two proposals, but they should have, and if they didn’t, that was their choice. They were presented with more than just the Gallatin Group.

    Also, Gallatin was not hired to do a “transportation study” – that’s quite inaccurate. The job, which is the next step AFTER the studies have been done, entails convincing and persuading interested parties, such as adjacent cities, private companies, and most especially the state legislature, to come together and help pass a local-option tax permission so that cities can choose to tax citizens to help pay for mass transit. As of now, cities do not have the authority to do that.

    The job also entails organizing a Transportation Summit of all interested parties. Again, the gathering would not be for “studies” but for organizing a united front to lobby the legislature to allow the cities the right to the local-option tax.

    Jim, please explain how “Dave Bieter gets to benefit with $65,000 of taxpayer monies.” That’s quite an accusation.

  8. Dear Mr. Monihan:

    I share your frustration with the overlapping transportation studies that leave Boiseans spinning our wheels. The studies all point to the same looming transportation crisis in which the valley will loose federal funding if we don’t clean up our air. Bieter and Tibbs agree that the valley needs to stop subsidizing gridlock and start thinking about public transit. But here is the rub: the Idaho State Legislature, with its anti-city, anti-Boise bias, refused to allow the voters of Boise to even consider some alternative financing. The state said Boiseans could not even vote to tax ourselves.

    Last year, when Mayor Bieter apprached the legislature, he was rudely shut down in the most partisan manner. I personally believe this had something to do with the fact that Ada County, like America, is turning away from Republican leadership.
    Whatever the reason, we Boiseans need to empower the mayor to try again. This time we have the Gallatin Group on our side so maybe we can pressure more effectively. If we Idahoans subsidized transit one-tenth as much as we we subsidize car travel, the air would be clear and our federal highway funding would be fully restored.

    I appreciate that these are complex issues that do not lend themselves to sound bites. But let’s be clear about a couple of facts:

    First, the Gallatin Group with offices in D.C. and five western cities is not a political action committee. It is a public relations that works for Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft and Nike. In Boise it also works on good causes like forest conservation and the city’s detox center.

    Second, the non-partisan firm won the contract through a process of competitive bidding. Jim Tibbs rightly voted with a unanimous council to bring in the Gallatin Group.

    Third, and most important, this entire thing is about the politics of running for mayor. Politics inflames. It forces good people to make accusations, seeking sensational headlines. I truly believe that Mr. Tibbs is a high-minded public official. It is the councilman’s misfortune to be running an issueless campaign against a squeaky-clean popular mayor.

    If you would like to talk about this further, might I suggest a less public setting? I coffee in the morning (with the good councilman Tibbs, occasionally) at Dawson’s on 8th Street. You can also find me six-days-a-week at my Boise State office, where I direct the Center for Idaho History and Politics, L152 F. My email is tshalla@boisetate.edu Come by anytime to talk politics. I promise to listen respectfully.

    Boisean

  9. Boisean, I have absolutely no bones with the Gallatin Group. I have the utmost respect for Cecil Andrus and I believe he was the best Governor Idaho has had in the last 50, or so, years. To say they are non-partisan is naive. They are very, very good at their job, but they are most certainly operating a liberal agenda. (which many times is good) I would very much like to meet with you and discuss these issues. I will e-mail you this afternoon.
    Jill, I know you to be a gifted journalist with a passion for politics.
    For the life of me I can’t understand your position, or your question. The city is paying The Gallatin Group $65,000 dollars to do a transportation study(I agree completely that they won’t do the study themselves, they have the previously named agencies for the heavy lifting) But they will package those studies, put them a beautiful folder with their name on it and present it at the “Symposium” Do you honestly think that study will put Dave Bieter in any type of negative light?? It will go out of it’s way to praise Bieter’s leadership and Dave Bieter will be the sole recipient of that $65,000 paid to Gallatin by the trax-payers of this city. The citizens would be monies ahead to just make a $40,000 dollar donation to his re-election campaign and be done with it. My main beef with this issue is that we have hired Gallatin (in an underhanded manner) to convince the state legislature to give counties local option taxing capability. Why isn’t Dave Bieter doing that? Oh, I forgot, he did that last year and failed miserably. And, in my opinion, it wasn’t because the legislature is Republican as much as it was because they just don’t like Dave Bieter or Boise! They seem to resist most things we want because they feel that we “demand” rather than seek a solution.
    When this election is over, and I firmly believe Jim will be successful, you will still be writing provacative political articles about politics, and I also hope with a little more even handedness.

  10. Jill, I know. You wish I would proof my posts. Sorry!

  11. Jim, we’re all entitled to our opinions. Including me – I’m an editorial writer. Here’s how Wikipedia defines that:
    “A column a recurring piece or article in a newspaper, magazine or other publication. Columns are written by columnists. What differentiates a column from other forms of journalism is that it meets each of the following criteria:

    * It is a regular feature in a publication
    * It is personality-driven by the author
    * It explicitly contains an opinion or point of view”
    In both the headline and the super of this article, that is made clear.

    But I must repeat that you are perpetuating quite a large inaccuracy: the $65,000 is NOT for a “study.” And to say Dave Bieter “is the sole recipient of that $65,000” is, well, a lie. The money goes to the Gallatin Group. In what way does the money end up in Bieter’s account? Answer: in no way. Be very careful with such accusations.

    The fact that the legislature doesn’t like Boise is an almost century-old prejudice that has nothing to do with Tibbs or Bieter. Plus, they don’t like ANYBODY. 🙂

  12. When this is all over, please remember Jill, your the one that called me a liar!
    If Boise city gives The Gallatin Group $65,000.00 of the citizens money and their main function is to “lobby” for Boise city, why in the hell isn’t the mayor doing that? Shame on you for deflecting the issue! If their other function is to host the “traffic symposium” right before the election where they will manufacture “photo-op’s” for their CLIENT, and will say the results are that their CLIENT is doing a great job, what the hell would you call it?? So now, maybe you would like to share how Dave Bieter is NOT the recipient of all this effort?
    Jill, you need to get out more often and try to develop some “street smarts”. Dave Bieter has fiddled while this city has come to a transportation standstill, as a result of Dave Bieter not doing one concrete thing to solve the problem except ride his bike to work and hope someone takes his picture, we now find ourselves in a critical situation. I resent you calling me a liar when it is completely obvious that this whole thing STINKS! Oh, it’s a study all right. And it’s purpose is to “spin” their CLIENT out of accountability for four years of doing nothing!

  13. The statement that the $65,000 is for a “study,”,which you’ve now repeated several times, is not true. To repeat it, after you’ve had the chance to check your facts, (all available online) is to spread an untrue statement. Give me a better word and I’ll use it. Better, give clear evidence that your ongoing use of the word “study” is accurate.
    (other than: “Oh, it’s a study all right.”)
    This is the summary of the work to be done by Gallatin, from the mayor’s memo to the Council: “The strategy would consist of…
    1. An ongoing outreach and coalition-building effort beginning immediately and continuing through the end of 2007 for the purpose of building momentum and buy-in in advance of the 2008 legislative session. 2. A transit summit in early Fall 2007, involving key legislators and transportation advocates from around the state, that would provide in-depth information regarding the benefits of transit and the ways in which local-option authority would benefit all areas of Idaho, not just the Treasure Valley.”

    Nowhere is there a word about a “study” or a “symposium” (which is different from a “summit.”) I have the entire proposal from Gallatin Group in front of me, and there is also nothing in it about studying anything.

    I’m asking you to use solid evidence to make your arguments.

  14. My God Jill, read the bloody quote!
    Item 1- doesn’t SAY ANYTHING!
    Item 2- “that would provide in-depth information regarding the benefits of transit and the ways in which local option authority would benefit all areas of Idaho” What in God’s name do you think they are going to show the participants? Maybe pretty pictures of someone fishing in the Boise river?? If they are going to provide in-depth information, where do you suppose they will get that information? If you want to quibble over summit or symposium or the wykopedia definition of your job, it doesn’t matter one bit to me,
    If someone amasses information on a topic, organizes it, and presents it to someone they are trying to influence, or affect a decision, then they are DOING A STUDY! IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU CALL IT!
    You are totally correct that you are entitled to your opinion. So am I. If you think that Dave Bieter is above board and acted correctly in this matter, then so be it! I happen to believe he has done a miserable job with this situation, and an equally poor job of running this city!
    Here’s an idea for your next column. You could write about what a “stellar” job Bieter has done for transportation during the last 4 years. You could zero in on all his accomplishments with managing traffic trends, or his magnificent leadership with the vast improvement in our beloved bus system! Come to Gallatin’s “Study/Summit/Symposium” this fall and you will hear what a great job Bieter has done! You can get your back story from the Gallatin talking points! But at some point, you really should thank the citizens for “bankrolling” the whole thing. You know, maybe why I am so condemning of his performance is because I voted for him 4 years ago and he has been so disappointing.

  15. Boisean signing off

    Jim: You’re ranting. This discussion was about ethics. A guy smeared the other guy with a false accusation. The mayor is an honest fellow. He doesn’t control the Ada County Highway District and, unlike mayors in other cities, he can’t even put up a stop sign. The traffic problem is regional in any case. All the mayor can do is lobby the legislature for the tools we need to fix the problem.

    My Mom told me never to argue politics. Sorry Mom.

    Boisean, signing off

  16. Boisean, you are correct!I am indeed ranting, and I must apologize to my mother as well. Our disagreement is that I don’t believe the “smear” was false. Time will tell on that issue. The connective tissue that joins the conversation is indeed the transportation crisis we have at this time. The ethical problem seems to me to be centered around an orchestrated attempt to absolve Dave Bieter from any responsibility in this matter. I just hate the thought of the “power brokers” playing their little games to insure another term for their “boy” so they can run him for Governor. These manipulations used to be just in national campaigns. But now we seem to be employing the same strategies in city council and mayoral contests. That’s sad.

  17. Jim,

    I’m curious what your position is on Jim Tibbs in general.

    I find him to be incredibly two-faced – and have thought so since he said he wouldn’t take the Chief job and then rallied all his friends around him despite the Citizen committee’s recommendations. I agree that Dave Bieter can be ham-handed, but it all seems to stem from his desire to put Boise first and do what he thinks is best for the city. I honestly think that Jim Tibbs is primarily out for himself first.

  18. Back on the original topic, I have to say that Tibbs is demonstrating rather convincingly that: (a) there is not a strong reason to oust our incumbent; (b) if there were, Tibbs would not be a worthy successor; and (c) Tibbs may not even be capable of serving as a Council member.

  19. I, for one, certainly respect your opinions. You may want to wait until sometime a little closer to the election to make your final decision. There will be a lot happening between now and then.

  20. Jim is right on target. Jill, you need to dig a little deeper into what is going on.

  21. Is my memory correct that during the downfall days of Mayor Coles and his aids Jim Tibbs was caught on security cameras helping those people who had purloined city property carry it back in and put it back? If so, although he may not have taken the items himself he was helping in a cover up for those who did. Whose ethics should be questioned here?

    I, for one, certainly hope Mayor Bieter wins reelection. He is out for the betterment of Boise, not self aggrandizement. The mud slinging by Tibbs is only splattering back on himself.

  22. No, Mary, your memory is not correct. Wrong police chief! Jim Tibbs was not the chief of police at that time. Sorry.