BOISE, Idaho, Feb. 14 (UPI) — Boise Mayor Brent Coles resigned Friday after the Idaho attorney general charged him with two misdemeanors for accepting tickets to the Winter Olympics from a company that does business with the city.
Coles said in a statement that he was not resigning after nearly 10 years in office because he was guilty of accepting “pecuniary benefit” from Blue Cross of Idaho, but rather because he did not want the charges to interfere with the management of the city.
“The spirit of anger and meanness that has permeated our community for the past three months has damaged us individually and collectively,” said Coles. “It is my sincere hope that my resignation will put some of this to rest and will allow all of us the opportunity to begin to heal.”
Coles would be forced to resign if convicted of the charges, which also carry penalties of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Coles and his wife attended last winter’s Olympics in Salt Lake City as the guests of Blue Cross, which provides dental coverage for city employees. Blue Cross picked up the Coles’ airfare and provided ducats for various events.
State Attorney General Lawrence Wasden told reporters that his office had been asked in December to investigate the trip at the request of the Ada County district attorney, and had found Coles to be in violation of state law prohibiting public officials from accepting such gifts.
“That law prohibits public servants from accepting gifts — what the statute calls a ‘pecuniary benefit’ — from persons known to be interested in, or likely to become interested in, contracts or other transactions with regard to which the public servant has some discretionary function,” Wasden said.
Blue Cross said in a statement that Coles and his wife had been invited to Utah as part of a hospitality package it received from Olympics organizers in return for Blue Cross’s role as an Olympics sponsor.
The company said it invited Coles and paid his expenses so that he could take part in “Idaho Day,” a promotional event staged at the Olympics on Feb. 16, 2002.
“Blue Cross of Idaho invited Mayor Coles to be its guest at the Olympics, which he accepted,” Blue Cross said in a statement. “Mayor Coles spoke at Idaho Day and attended several Olympic venues during that holiday weekend.”
(Reported by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles)