Kootenai County commissioners must explain to the Idaho Supreme Court why they shouldn’t pick a new assessor from a list submitted by Democrats.
The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday with Democrats who said the appointment of a Republican to fill the position vacated by Tom Moore’s death violates state law.
The court said it appears “that the respondents (commissioners) have appointed G. Ray Lee as assessor from a list of nominees presented to them from the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee without authority.”
But the court issued an order directing commissioners to pick someone from the list sent in by Democrats - or else file legal arguments defending their position.
Commissioners have no intention of picking a new assessor.
“Oh heck no,” said Commissioner Dick Panabaker. “We feel we made the right decision and we’re going to stand by it.”
County lawyers will be preparing arguments to defend their choice during the next two weeks. They have 14 days from the time the Supreme Court’s order is received to comply.
The fracas, already brewing for two months, isn’t likely to be resolved soon.
It started after Moore, elected as a Democrat, switched to the GOP one month before he died Nov. 12 of lung cancer.
The GOP county commission named Lee to the job, from the list of three nominees submitted by the Republicans.
That caused the local Democratic organization to cry foul, and ask the Supreme Court to step in. Democrats said the appointment of a Republican nominee violates state law because Moore was elected a Democrat.
Commissioners said they selected the most qualified person to replace Moore. Lee formerly was the county’s senior commercial appraiser.
State Democratic Party Chairman Bill Mauk, a Boise lawyer who filed the legal action, said the commissioners now will have to prove the appointment was legal.
“It shifts the burden back to them,” he said.