It's rare to read an official court ruling state "the devil is in the details." Indeed those were the exact words from 4th District Judge Melissa Moody in her denial of the Greater Boise Auditorium District's attempt to fund its already-under-construction City Center Plaza building. As a result, Moody has placed a major financial hurdle in front of the $21 million project.
Moody pointed to the uncomfortable "open-ended" promises in GBAD's lease agreement with the Capital City Development Corporation, which in turn would finance the project through millions of dollars in bonds. The judge ruled that the deal "violated the spirit and purpose of the [Idaho] constitutional limitation against indebtedness."
"The Court concludes it cannot approve the proposed lease agreement because there are too many unknowns," she wrote.
Moody said too many questions remained in what appeared to some as a shell game, or as she put it, "subterfuge for what is actually a conditional sales contract."
Simply put, Moody ruled that GBAD racking up that much indebtedness requires a two-thirds majority approval from voters.
Article VIII, subsection three of the Idaho Constitution reads that, "No county, city, board of education, or school district, or other subdivision of the state, shall incur any indebtedness, or liability, in any manner, or for any purpose, exceeding in that year, the income and revenue provided for it for such year, without the assent of two-thirds of the qualified electors."
The bottom line: GBAD will have to pay--out of pocket--for its new building or get two-thirds voter approval. Since GBAD's purse currently holds somewhere around $15 million, the auditorium district will need to start draining its bank account sooner than later to help pay for what will cost north of $21 million.
The thorn in GBAD's side was Boise Guardian editor Dave Frazier, who formally challenged the district's request for court approval of the unique funding scheme.
"It was gratifying to have Judge Moody see through the attempt to circumvent the Constitution," wrote Frazier, upon hearing of the ruling. "Too many public works projects have denied voters their constitutionally mandated voice on the public debt."
"The devil is in the details," wrote Moody. "A painstaking review of all the documents before the Court reveals that [GBAD] is not free, as it insists, 'to simply walk away.'"
Which leaves GBAD little time to come up with a Plan B. Construction is well underway.