I have volunteered with the recall effort since the beginning and worked closely with Claudia Ortega. I write this in response to the LTE by Leah Murphy.
I question the existence of Leah Murphy. A search on Facebook reveals a Leah Murphy Facebook account created just three days before the LTE was published. There is no personal information listed and there are no friends identified. A search of voter registration records in Bannock County confirmed that Leah Murphy is not a registered voter. A background check through Been Verified did not show a Leah Murphy residing in Bannock County. Such a lack of information begs the question, does Leah Murphy exist? Who could be so threatened that they would make up a Facebook page and write a lengthy letter with the obvious intent of defaming Claudia Ortega?
This letter is to the coward whom I think is hiding behind the Leah Murphy façade and to correct and address some of the points and questions in the LTE.
Claudia Ortega is a person (who really exists) with great depth and character. She and her husband are thoughtful, caring people who relocated here due to her husband's career in law enforcement. They love our city and our community and immediately made it their home. She is an advocate against the injustice caused by unchecked and unaccountable power structures. To suggest that tenure dictates whether a person is “qualified to represent the citizens of this city”; discounts the many contributions to and level of commitment Claudia has for our community.
Claudia, as did thousands of other residents of Pocatello and Bannock County, became alarmed by the lack of clarity and information produced by our Assessor. She was elected to serve all the residents. For some unknown reason, she conveniently rejected putting people first.
Claudia not only offers a fresh perspective but has the courage to question some of the decisions made by our elected officials. It is easy to simply nod one’s head and allow the “powers that be” to make decisions which benefit a select few repeatedly. It is quite another to stand alone before a large audience and challenge our elected officials on behalf of all Bannock County citizens.
Claudia was inspired to start the Recall effort when she went to file her appeal on July 8, the next to last day as identified in the June 26 edition of ISJ. "One bit of good news is that the deadline to appeal the new assessments has been extended to July 9, according to Bannock County Commissioner Terrel "Ned" Tovey." The June 28 ISJ article, “Assessor says software might have created reassessment errors” reports 3 dates, July 9, July 8 and July 5.
When Claudia went in to appeal on July 8, she was told that she was too late. She was one of hundreds if not thousands of us functioning according to what was announced by one of the commissioners. Like many of us she was out of town during the week of the Fourth of July so she was not here to follow the shifting deadlines. There were others who attempted to appeal on the 9th and were also denied.
The current Assessor should have noticed and addressed the rising assessment trends early this year. Mailing our assessments out late compressed the time for appeals, made it challenging to prepare appeals, and thrust the appeal process into chaos. We believe these actions exhibit incompetence and a disregard for the people who elected her. Further excuse-making and countering explanations smack of a cover-up.
I attended the 8/6 meeting which included the Bannock County Commissioners and the State Tax Commission. Commissioner Steve Brown was asked about the revolving dates, in short he replied that the ISJ misprinted the dates. I was appalled that he did not feel a responsibility to the citizens of Bannock County and immediately correct those dates either through a press conference or through the ISJ.
We would not be upset with the Commissioners if they would have set a firm appeal deadline and not given contradicting messages which confused so many of us. Instead, they struggled to identify the problems, failed to clearly define the process going forward, confused the issues, and attempted to excuse the failures of the Assessor. These officials have failed us time and time again.
These realities inform Claudia and prompt her to invest herself as a candidate to become part of the change she and we are seeking for Pocatello and our larger community. She is a tireless champion of the people. I am grateful that Claudia is here and will support her in her selfless journey to the City Council, which was never her intention but she believes is now necessary. We all will be better off having another watchdog on the council.
Editor's Note: The Idaho State Journal verified Leah Murphy's letter to the editor with the writer before publication. Since then we have asked Leah Murphy to provide additional proof of her identity but she has failed to do so.