By BRIAN WALKER
HAYDEN — A former state legislator and Hayden business owner is upset that he and at least one other property owner were denied the opportunity to vote in the Hayden Lake Irrigation District board election on Tuesday.
Exacerbating the situation is that the vote resulted in a 10-10 tie between incumbent Doris Fleming and Matthew Alexander. It’s expected to be decided with a coin flip or similar method in front of a judge on a date to be determined.
Ed Morse, a former state representative and owner of A2Z Storage on Ramsey Road, said he believes the voting denial to himself and at least one other business owner, Tim Lawton of SCI Structural Consultants, is an attempt by the district to protect its existing leadership.
"I know you are trying to exclude votes and bias the election, but by excluding Tim and I you are going to get sued," Morse wrote in an e-mail to Branden Rose, the district's administrator.
In an e-mail to Morse, Rose cited law for irrigation districts that states qualified electors must have resided within the district for 30 days.
But Morse, also citing law, said no residency is required for an irrigation district board election.
"The only residency requirement relates to elections for bonding with the U.S. government, not irrigation district elections," Morse wrote. "Quit trying to exclude votes and throw this election. It clearly influenced the outcome of the election."
Rose couldn't be reached for comment on Thursday.
Attorney Susan Weeks said she has been hired by the irrigation district to settle the tie vote through the courts, not investigate Morse's complaint.
She said she hopes to file a petition with the court today to determine when the matter will be resolved.
"Hopefully the candidates will be able to watch it," she said, adding that the specific method in settling the tie will be decided by a judge.
Weeks said she doesn't know why an election judge at the poll turned away Morse from voting. She said that if a person believes they were denied the rightful opportunity to vote, law states the matter should be taken to court, not the district.
Morse said there could be more than two people who were turned away at the poll.
He said he’s in a wait-and-see mode on the matter.
"We have not decided whether to bring a suit yet," he told The Press. "We're hoping the district will adhere to following the law and, if they won't, there's a chance Matthew will win the coin toss (or other method). If they don't, we'll look at (filing suit) strongly."
Morse said he has concerns about the district's intention of raising rates for commercial property owners and believes the board has limited discussions about those plans.
The reason the results of the irrigation district's vote were not posted on the Kootenai County website is because irrigation districts are statutorily excluded and are considered a private corporation owned by members within the district.