Interest charge

Review panel hears conflict of interest accusation

Bruce Mattare’s campaign for county office sent the Study Commission on Optional Forms of Government into deliberations about his possible conflict of interest Wednesday night.

Last week, Mattare announced his intention to run for Kootenai County District 2 Commissioner, currently held by Chris Fillios.

OFGSC President Dave Botting suggested Mattare resign from the study group and focus his efforts on the campaign.

“People went crazy about the political consequences of this commission,” Botting said Wednesday. “I think the fact that you advertised and are now campaigning for the position of county commissioner is going to politicize this commission even more.”

As Alternate Study Commissioner, Mattare will help develop a recommendation to retain or change Kootenai County’s government structure.

“I’m just suggesting that what you’re doing is creating an appearance with the public that is harmful, and I’m asking you to remove that appearance,” Botting said. “If you think you can be impartial and continue on this point, fine.”

Although Mattare said he appreciated Botting’s “opinion”, he disagreed that his candidacy constituted a conflict of interest.

“I haven’t made any public comments on my opinion on anything so far,” Mattare said. “I have no intention of using this platform for campaign efforts.”

Mattare said he was “much quieter” than Botting, pointing to the president’s recent letter to the editor published by The Press in July. In the LTE, Botting listed several public comments about the OFGSC calling it “un-American” and a “work of satan.” Botting also explained the commission’s capabilities as listed in Idaho’s 31-5001 code.

“You want to talk about adding to the policy of this? Look at your letter to the editor,” Mattare said. “So I just find it ironic that you’re making these statements about me when in fact I think you’re the one doing these things.”

Other commissioners under consideration also expressed mixed feelings about Mattare’s candidacy. Kristen Wing said that in her view Mattare’s campaign suggests that he supports maintaining the current form of government.

“When I joined this group, I came with a blank slate. I didn’t come with a preconceived idea,” Wing said. “When I read the article in the newspaper, it made me think.”

Twice on Wednesday, study member Bryant Bushling said Wing’s “pausing” comment was “a very low standard” for asking Mattare to resign from the commission.

Later in the meeting, Wing and fellow study commissioner Tamara Bateson said they repeatedly felt “beaten” for their comments during group discussions. Several fellow committee members apologized.

Mattare said he asked the county attorney if his candidacy would be inappropriate during the review and was told no.

“Part of the reason I threw my hat away is because of the issues I learned from being part of this commission,” Mattare said. “There are a lot of issues in our county government that are unresolved, and they need someone who can fix them.”

Any recommended changes in the form of government proposed by the study commission would be decided by the voters. If voters approve a change, it will be implemented regardless of who is in power.