Coeur d’Alene City Councilman Ron Edinger said Wednesday he’s the victim of a smear campaign because he believes the proposed makeover of McEuen Field should be put to a public vote.
In a statement released to the media, Edinger said he never used his position to help three of his grandsons get jobs with the city. Two of them have worked part-time for the city for years, he said; a third worked seasonally for the streets department.
“Left with no issue upon which to discredit me and a heated dissatisfaction with my position taken on McEuen, there are individuals who have chosen to go after the core of my being; my family during this campaign,” said Edinger, 75, who has served on the council for more than 40 years and is running for re-election.
Idaho law contains a section regarding “using public position for personal gain” that includes the statement: “No person related to a mayor or member of a city council … shall be appointed to any … employment or duty with the mayor’s or city council’s city when the salary, wages, pay or compensation of such appointee or employee is to be paid out of public funds.”
Edinger said neither he nor his grandsons knew about the state statute that made them ineligible for city employment. His grandsons’ employment was terminated Oct. 6, after the city was informed of the conflict.
Edinger’s daughter, Paula Austin, works in the recreation department, but was grandfathered in her position because she was hired before the state law took effect in 1990, said City Attorney Mike Gridley.
Gridley said Edinger’s opponent, Adam Graves, made inquiries about Austin’s employment. After that, Gridley investigated and discovered Edinger’s grandsons’ employment. Graves did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
“Should I have known that this statute existed? Yes,” Gridley said. But, he added, Edinger’s grandsons’ last names are Willoughby and Poole, and they were hired by “lower-level” supervisors. “They were kids with different last names hired by people who didn’t know the law. We should not have hired these kids, end of story.”
Mayor Sandi Bloem said city officials were not aware that hiring guidelines were not compliant with state law. She said applications for employment do include a question about whether applicants are related to City Council members or the mayor. But that’s to avoid issues such as family members supervising each other. Bloem said now that the city is aware of the state law, personnel rules will be changed.
“We were not aware of the state statute or they would never have been hired in the first place,” Bloem said. “There was no intent to do wrong. That was not against any personnel rules we had at the time.”