HEART OF ALENE — Kootenai County commissioners on Tuesday denied a request from embattled Assessor Béla Kovacs to approve funding for outside legal services.
The request came nearly two weeks after commissioners cut Kovacs’ salary in half from about $90,000 a year to $45,000, citing dereliction of duty.
Kovacs did not tell the commissioners why he needed legal services, although he did allude to his pay cut. He suggested there is a conflict of interest with the county attorney’s office.
“Due to the measures taken recently, there is still a conflict (of interest),” Kovacs said.
He acknowledged that he had access to county legal counsel for matters related to the day-to-day operations of his office.
Commissioners Bill Brooks and Leslie Duncan denied the request.
“When other conflicts have come up in the past, it hasn’t been of a direct personal nature,” Duncan said. “I don’t think that’s a wise use of taxpayers’ money right now.”
Kovacs was appointed to his position in May 2020, following the death of Assessor Rich Houser. He won the Republican primary election for office in May and will face write-in nominee Bob Scott in November.
Prior to the primary election, 34 county employees signed a statement of no confidence in Kovacs’ ability to lead the assessor’s office.
After annual property value assessments were completed in June, which generated 700 appeal requests from property owners, Kovacs’ office missed state deadlines to provide the values to the county clerk.
The commissioners said the unprecedented decision to cut Kovacs’ salary came after county employees and other elected officials expressed “serious concerns” about Kovacs’ performance.