What's Wrong With This Picture?
June 18, 2001
Fund Report - Last of the McGuckin Land is Saved
Not sure how much is in the unopened envelopes just taken from the post office box now sitting on my wife's desk, nor how much has been received by the bank since we changed the fund's address, but a reasonable guess puts the McGuckin Family Trust Fund at about $20,000. Of course, there is that fund established by Bryce Powell, too, isn't there? I wonder how much he has received for it and how much came into the jail in envelopes addressed to JoAnn (which we have learned were delivered unopened to Mr. Powell, of course).
The last of the McGuckins' assets is a 1-1/2 acre parcel next to the 40-acre parcel taken by Bonner County for its $8,000+ tax bill. It, too, was scheduled to go into fatal default later this week. I held back from satisfying that tax bill because so many had made sounds about paying it, preferring that the money so many of you sent in be kept intact for the McGuckin family's needs, if not required for JoAnn's bail. However, as of last Friday afternoon, the bill was still outstanding, so we paid it. At minimum, the McGuckins still own a large enough plot to put an inexpensive manufactured home on, if they wish to do so.
As I said before, because JoAnn released a public statement disavowing the outpouring of public support in her behalf, it is possible she will reject the fund, too. If she does so, then I will cut it into six equal portions and establish irrevocable college trust funds for her children. Remember, no matter what happens, I have promised that not one penny will be going into any lawyer's pocket.
What's Wrong With This Picture?
I think it interesting that, the very day JoAnn stated in open court that she did not wish to me to continue as her civil attorney (leaving her with no civil representation, no pun intended), both sides then released a statement that the land was "not an issue." And I don't think they were referring solely to the fact of the proceedings being merely the criminal charge and child custody hearings. Steele exits stage left and suddenly the land is "not an issue." Guess JoAnn is now fine on losing it for $8,000 and change. What is wrong with this picture?
Current Chairman of the Bonner County Commissioners, Tom Suttmeier, has publicly stated how bad he feels about what happened to the McGuckin home, but that "(e)very effort was made to ensure the family would not lose their home even though they were years delinquent with their taxes." Of course, despite the dramatic crocodile tears, the county never simply forgave the back taxes, as it could and should have, now did it? Nor did the county sit on the tax deed for the 3-year redemption period (redemption in years 2 and 3 available only if the county has not yet sold the land), preferring instead to sell the property immediately upon the running of the 1-year absolute-right-of-redemption period. "Every effort," indeed. And I'm not even sharing with you everything that we have concerning this business, which puts the lie to Suttmeier's face-saving prevarication (that's "lie" to us common folk).
I was holding this for trial, but will release it now in the interest of saving the land grab as an issue for the McGuckins in this sordid melodrama (the original motivating issue, too, it is my firm belief). On August 3, 2000, fully two months before the county sold the land to the Korenguts, JoAnn went into the Assessor's office and was told, apparently for the first time, of the tax sale. Here's the handwritten note from the file: "I informed her of this property going to sale & handed her the printout. She was extremely upset & I told her she couldn't come into the courthouse until she's composed." Nice touch, eh? You tell me - does this reflect a county intent upon expending "every effort" to help the McGuckins keep their home?
A Few Comments
First, an excerpt from the Sierra Times' published interview with JoAnn's appointed criminal defense lawyer, Bryce Powell: "When I first came to see her, it took two deputies to help her to her feet," Powell insisted. "She was not doing well." Powell offered this by way of partly explaining why he was to be the sole contact for her, even by other lawyers such as myself and the other appointed public defender.
Odd. I met with JoAnn McGuckin the night before the day Powell first saw her. She came into the interview cubicle on her own power, getting up and down off the chair with no apparent difficulty, and was quite animated throughout our conversation, though it went on for nearly two hours and ended only as midnight approached. If what Powell says is true, what happened in between? If what Powell says is not true, why isn't it?
I can share this only because Powell's statement otherwise supports the establishment line as to why I was denied access to JoAnn.
The Bottom Line
As I write this, JoAnn is still in jail. The kids are still in a foster home. The property is still in the Korenguts' name. The county still has the $42,000 profit it realized from selling the McGuckin home out from under them. The kids' dogs are still either dead or at the shelter. Idaho still allows counties to keep the profit from such tax sales of what generally proves to be the land of poor people. What is different? Please, somebody explain it to me, because I just don't see it.
"I didn't say it would be easy. I just said it would be the truth."
Copyright © Edgar J. Steele, 2002
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