Commissioner Pincushion

Kootenai County Commissioner Dick Panabaker believes he has a big bull's-eye painted on his chest this year as he seeks his fourth term. Concerned Businesses of North Idaho, Jobs Plus and Duane Hagadone are dogging him because he was reluctant to support a $50,000 doughnation to Jobs Plus two years ago. At the time, Jobs Plus was hurting for contributions. Mebbe it still is.

According to Panabaker, heavyweights from the Concealed Businesses/Jobs Plus crowd courted him for months to vote for the additional money for Jobs Plus, concluding that he was the swing vote on the three-man commission. (He was.) On the day of the vote, Panabaker said, he was visited by Jobs Plus exec Bob Potter and John Barlow, the Hagadone Corp. exec who ramrods Concealed Biz. According to Panabaker, Barlow offered to beg on his hands and knees for Panabaker's vote in favor of the Jobs Plus contribution. Reluctantly, Panabaker said he would vote in favor of the funding. But he made no promises about any future support. The county used $42,000 from the sale of the Corbin ditch property to Post Falls homeowners to provide most of the Jobs Plus funding.

After the 2-1 vote in support of the funding, Panabaker said he returned to his office and discovered that Duane Hagadone had left an angry message on his phone. Seems Hagadone had tried to call Panabaker before the commissioners vote. In the recording, Hagadone said he'd supported Jobs Plus for 15 years and warned: ``Our editorial staff will be busy with you in the future.'' (Panabaker told me he would have voted against the Jobs Plus funding if he'd received the call earlier.)

All of which may explain why Hagadone's Coeur d'Alene Press has been firing away this winter at the county commission and at Panabaker, who faces a tough re-election primary. And why the Concealed Biz/Jobs Plus/Hagadone complex is supporting two candidates in the two commish races: Katie Brodie (vs. Panabaker) and Claudia Brennan (vs. Commish Rick Currie). Stay tuned.

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