Boise City Hall now says threatening letters sent to non-Boise businesses late last year were mailed in error. The letters warned businesses that they could face fines and the loss of their business licenses if they didn’t follow the city’s Covid mitigation directives.
“The addresses were gathered and added to a mail merge sent out by the mail department,” spokesman Seth Ogilvie told the Idaho Freedom Foundation via email. “Someone should have flagged the addresses, but they were missed. Boise businesses sometimes receive mail outside of the city. Nine businesses accidentally received these letters, and all nine have been contacted and received an apology. These businesses should not have received the letters.”
A follow-up letter from the city says, “We are reaching out to you today to apologize for a recent clerical error. You may have received a warning notice from the Boise City Clerk’s Office regarding the City of Boise COVID-19 Emergency Health Order. We recognize that the jurisdiction of the City of Boise Public Health Order does not extend into the city your business is in. Again, we apologize for the error.”
The city sent one such letter to Independence Indoor Shooting, a gun store and shooting range in Meridian, threatening the business with fines and jail time. The Dec. 1 letter says the City of Boise had received “a complaint from the public that your business, Independence Indoor Shooting, was in violation of a current COVID-19 Emergency Health Orders issued by state or local entities.”
“A subsequent complaint to the City of your business failing to comply with current emergency health orders may result in an investigation of your business by law enforcement,” the letter continues. “If an investigation of your business reveals noncompliance with emergency health orders, the business owner, the business staff, or your patrons may be cited for a criminal misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine, six months in jail, or both” under Boise City Code.”
The city then sent additional letters to businesses in Meridian, Eagle, Garden City, and Kuna in response to Covid-related customer complaints, despite having no jurisdiction. They included: New Leaf, JB’s Restaurant, Quality Inn & Suites, and Walmart, all located in Meridian; Great Scotts Eagle Gas Station, Revel Senior Living, and Winco, all located in Eagle; a Dairy Queen in Garden City; and an Albertsons in Kuna.
Certainly, a clerical error is easy to explain away. But this sure seems like something more. As noted previously, someone needed to enter the information into the city’s systems to generate a letter. That data entry should have resulted in someone noticing that the city was mailing warning letters to businesses outside the city’s jurisdiction. So either city officials believed there was nothing meaningfully wrong with mailing a letter to businesses in the interest of advancing Covid-related protocols, or the sloppy work involved in sending letters to people and businesses outside its jurisdiction passes for normal at City Hall.