Brenda Auld and Harry Magnuson have been at loggerheads since he took exception to her “monstrosity” of a fence four years ago.
So Auld can’t understand why Magnuson wants to join forces now.
Both are larger-than-life figures in the Silver Valley. She’s a gutsy activist, a street-fighter from Texas. He’s a Wallace businessman who made a fortune from mining.
Since the battle over the “historical appropriateness” of Auld’s fence was settled in her favor, the two have agreed on just one issue. They both fought to block the creation of a county-wide library district, fearing that it would increase taxes.
At the moment, they’re at odds on the controversial question of whether the Silver Valley needs two hospital districts.
Magnuson is a trustee of the East Shoshone Hospital District. Auld, leader of a watchdog organization known as the People’s Group, is sponsoring a petition to dissolve the district.
“He’s tried everything to get me to come on board for the hospital district,” said Auld, who believes health care would be both better and cheaper if the Valley’s east and west taxing districts were combined.
“I’m just afraid he’s trying to start a new battle to keep our focus off the hospital district,” she said.
Auld once asked Magnuson why her support for the East Shoshone Hospital District was so important. She vividly remembers the answer.
“He said, ‘Brenda, there are two people in this Valley people listen to. They listen to me, and they listen to you.”’
Efforts to reach Magnuson for comment last week were unsuccessful.
In September 1994, when Auld’s letters criticizing the East Shoshone Hospital District first hit the local newspaper, Magnuson wrote to her, requesting a membership application for the People’s Group.
Auld said he wasn’t the only trustee to inquire about joining the group, whose membership she keeps confidential.
“Our group votes on whether members can be admitted. They felt that Harry and the other hospital (board) members wanted to join to undermine our effort,” she said.
Magnuson never got a membership form. But this month, after the kick-off of the petition drive to dissolve the district, he wrote again and asked to join the People’s Group.
The letter, dated Jan. 16, also said he had asked the secretary of state about the group’s legal status and membership.
Three days later, worried about the question of the group’s legality, Auld fired off a fax to Secretary of State Pete Cenarussa.
“Is there some law on record that would compel a civic function to disclose names of members that I do not know about? If I am in violation, then your department needs to tell me,” she wrote.
By Friday, Auld hadn’t received an answer. But Deputy Secretary of State Everett Wohlers said there is no law forcing an unincorporated group to incorporate, or requiring an unincorporated group to release information.
“If they don’t want tax-exempt status or grants, there’s nothing that says an unincorporated organization has to disclose anything,” Wohlers said. “There’s nothing wrong legally that I can see.”