Nampa: Canyon County prosecutor John Bujak shouldn’t profit

From the Idaho Statesman

Prosecutor John Bujak’s efforts to protect the privacy of his $598,000 agreement to handle misdemeanor prosecutions for Nampa got more complicated Thursday.

A few hours after a hearing on a lawsuit seeking to force Bujak to disclose banking records concerning the contract, a city attorney sent a letter to the prosecutor and county commissioners, saying Nampa wants to change its contract to make sure none of its money goes into the prosecutor’s pocket.

Bujak, who outbid the firm that held the contract for years, has said it saves a lot of money for Nampa and the county.

If he can manage it well enough to make a profit, Bujak said, he should be entitled to it. He estimates he might make up to$50,000 from the deal this year.

“We find this most troubling and, indeed, request an immediate modification of the agreement so no money goes to Mr. Bujak, as originally stated, and the Nampa payment be reduced accordingly,” Nampa City Attorney Bill Nichols wrote.

Bujak could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Two of the three county commissioners were out of the office Thursday, so there has been no discussion about the proposal to change the contract, county communications officer Angie Sillonis said.

Commissioner Steve Rule said he hasn’t read the letter yet, but since the contract is between the city and the prosecutor, the commissioners wouldn’t have a role in any renegotiation.

Bujak has said the money is in a private trust account, so the bank records are private and not subject to public records law. Nampan Bob Henry disagrees and filed a legal petition seeking to force Bujak to disclose the records.

The city’s letter “strongly supports full disclosure of the application of these public funds” and asks the county to rescind its amended contract and direct future payments to the county auditor rather than a private account accessible only to Bujak.

The original contract between the county and city called for payments to go to the auditor, but the City Council and county commissioners later approved an amendment to pay Bujak directly.

The letter echoes several of the points raised by attorney Erik Stidham, who represents Henry in his public records lawsuit.

Both attorneys maintain that the city’s contract is not with Bujak personally, but with Bujak’s public persona as Canyon County prosecutor.

Both quoted from a county commissioners’ resolution that authorized the contract and said, among other things, that Bujak “could himself realize no financial advantage from his provision of prosecutorial service to the city.”

“The city of Nampa relied upon the integrity of this representation,” Nichols said in his letter.

Bujak has said his statements about not profiting from the contract dealt with the fact that he and his chief of staff did not take salary increases from the contract, which boosts the wages of all other employees of the prosecutor’s office.

He says that at the time he did not think he stood to benefit from any leftover contract funds, and he stresses that the Idaho Supreme Court has ruled that county prosecutors can hold and profit from private contracts to provide prosecution services to cities.

Michael Kane, the attorney representing Canyon County against Henry’s petition, said “there is nothing illegal, immoral or intellectually dishonest” about the arrangement.

Judge Kathryn Sticklen took the matter under advisement and is expected to rule within 30 days.

Kristin Rodine: 377-6447

From the Idaho Statesman

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