Here's a sneak preview of a Friday editorial, focusing on the ongoing, costly legal battle involving former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak:
It isn’t easy to dredge up much sympathy for Canyon County commissioners, as they wage legal battle with former Prosecutor John Bujak (a less than sympathetic figure in his own right).
But the commissioners are understandably perturbed because taxpayers are picking up Bujak’s legal bills.
Yes, these same commissioners endorsed a flawed contract to allow Bujak to handle misdemeanor prosecutions for the city of Nampa — funneling money into a private trust account and personally pocketing some of the savings. Their blithe acceptance of this deal got the county in this mess.
Let’s count the ways taxpayers are paying:
• There’s the $236,000 of missing county money. Bujak is accused of siphoning this money for personal use, resulting in a felony charge of misuse of public funds.
• Then there’s the $261,000 the county has spent — so far — on various Bujak cases.
• And then, for good measure, there are Bujak’s public defender’s bills. The tab: $91,000 and rising.
The commissioners are upset? Hey, take a number.
It only stands to reason that the commissioners are focusing on the public defender’s bills. Although Bujak has filed for bankruptcy, commissioners have questioned whether he is truly indigent.
And now, commissioners are questioning whether the Canyon County courts are doing enough to make sure taxpayer-funded public defenders are representing only people who cannot pay their own legal bills.
“We believe this failure has made a mockery of the right of the truly indigent to effective public defense and compromised the county’s budget,” commissioners wrote in a July 23 letter.
Fair question, slippery slope. A virtue of the American legal system is the guiding principle that everyone, regardless of means, has the right to adequate defense.
Claiming that he cannot afford to fork over $1,000 a month for a share of his legal bills, Bujak is petitioning to represent himself. That question could be decided in a court hearing today.
It calls to mind the saying about how a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client. Not that many Canyon County taxpayers would be apt to sympathize.