Braille Monitor                                                                  November 1985

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More of the Same at the Idaho Commission for the Blind

Illegal activity is nothing new at the Idaho Commission for the Blind. Since early February, 1984, the Idaho Commission for the Blind has felt that it should do all within its power to undermine, distort, and discourage the organized blind movement. Whether the activities undertaken to achieve this end were legal or not has quite apparently been of only minor concern.

For many years Lonnie Harmon has been a blind vendor in the Idaho program. In July, 1985, he was hired as a staff member of the Commission for the Blind to assist with the vending program. This is, of course, perfectly legal. Perfectly legal no matter how misguided it may be. However, Lonnie Harmon is still a vendor. We have now left the realm of legality.

The Idaho Code provides at Section 59201: "Members of the legislature, county, city, district, and precinct officers must not be interested in any contracts made by them in their official capacity or by any body or board of which they are members." Lonnie Harmon directs the vending program and receives a salary for doing it. He is also a vending stand operator in the program he directs. As the Idaho Supreme Court said in 1912: "A member of the board of county commissioners cannot file or claim a compensation for extra services rendered to the county which are not authorized by law, where such member is paid a salary under the law for his services as such member of the board, although such extra services are rendered for the benefit of the county." See Robinson v. Huffaker 23 Id. 172 (1912). A sweetheart deal remains a sweetheart deal no matter what you call it.

When the board members of the Idaho Commission for the Blind were informed that this conflict of interest existed, they admitted that they already knew of the double dipping, and they approved. Apparently, the standard for ethical judgment at the Commission for the Blind is quite simple. If you are a friend of the director or the board members, you can get any benefit going--legal or not. If you are not a friend, look out.