Judge Rules Against Kootenai Commissioners in Kovacs Lawsuit

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Yesterday, District Judge Susie Jensen ordered the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners to reinstate County Assessor Bèla Kovacs’ previous salary of $95,000 retroactive to September 25, 2022 with a 6% cost of living increase.

Read Between the Lede for the story.

  • Last year, the County Commissioners finalized the budget for 2023-2024 and slashed Kovac’s annual salary in half from $95,000/year to $45,000/year.
  • Regarding the decision, the County Commissioners cited Kovacs’ failure to meet his statutory duties as the elected County Assessor.
  • In response, Kovacs filed a lawsuit against Kootenai County and the Board of Commissioners to reinstate his original salary along with +6% cost of living adjustment (COLA).
  • Immediately after yesterday’s ruling, the County Commissioners issued a press release saying: “The current BOCC believes that public officials should be held to account in a public setting if such officials breach their statutory requirements.” In other words, Kovacs’ alleged failure to perform his duties should be handled at the ballot box, and not BOCC’s power of the purse strings.
  • In the court order, Judge Jensen provided a framework for how budgets should be set by County Commissioners and cited Reynolds et al. v. Board of Commissioners of Oneida County: “As stated in Reynolds, fixing the salary of county officers should be based on reasonable compensation for the services to be performed and the responsibilities of the office.”

Kootenai County commissioners ordered to restore assessor’s pay

A judge has ordered the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners to restore Assessor Bèla Kovacs’ salary, which the board cut in half last year after Kovacs missed statutory deadlines and failed to perform some of his duties.