Orofino Idaho -- The Feds Just Made Some More Enemies.
Below is the first Lewiston Morning Tribune article and the links to the subsequent articles.
Since this is the county is where I grew up I have many other sources of information. For example I personally know one of the people given subpoenas. Here are some of the other things I have heard (i.e. regard my comments below as rumors):
Sheriff Nick Alberts heard about the raid before he got to work. He turned on his siren and went racing to the center. He was stopped by FEMA and the State Patrol. They refused to let him approach the center. The rumor is that he is being accused of taking kickbacks. Although anything is possible, most people believe that is extremely unlikely.
A deputy sheriff called home to his wife -- he told her that he would be home late because he had to keep Nick (the sheriff) from killing the FEMA people. Almost for certain this was not literally true. But it goes to show the intensity of the feelings the raid generated. The same deputy sheriff says that he has helped with ATF raids before and although they were often inept, this raid was beyond belief. They went into the county evidence room and went through it in such a way that many of their (the country sheriff's office) criminal investigations are jeopardized. Also, they did not document the things they took.
One person given a subpoena was told to show up in Boise and to bring all his records with him. The problem is that nearly all his records were taken in the raid.
The early speculation was that a particular worker "blew the whistle" on the county and contractors doing the work. This particular worker, who owned a piece of heavy construction equipment, was fired because he was attempting to run up unjustifiable bills. After getting fired a few times he was unable to get a job in the area. It is speculated that he went to the Feds and told them the county and contractors were defrauding FEMA.
The most recent speculation I have heard is the whistle blower was not entirely mentally stable. Supposedly, after the Feds put her into the witness protection program she disappeared on them! Her story didn't check out and the Feds had to drop the case.
See also: TOWN OFFICIALS INCREDULOUS OVER OROFINO HIT!
Federal abuse of power is almost not newsworthy these days. Here is another one: Armed and dangerous, Federal agencies expanding use of firepower.
Joe Huffman Last update: August 10, 1998
Lewiston Morning Tribune Saturday, July 19, 1997
Federal agents raided Clearwater County's flood recovery command center in Orofino early Friday morning, prying open crates with crowbars and driving away with two vans and a stationwagon loaded with documents.
The raid began at 7 a.m. when a woman working at the courthouse was told members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency had a search warrant for the basement office.
County Commission Chairman Earl Pickett, who arrived about 30 minutes later, said the agents would not tell him specifically why the office was being searched, only that they were looking for evidence of "possible criminal intent to defraud the government."
During the commotion, several employees of the center were handed subpoenas to a grand jury in August in Boise.
Word of the raid spread quickly through the Orofino community, raising questions about what prompted the action by federal agents.
Mike Howard, FEMA's public affairs officer, refused to elaborate on the search but did explain why the agency would execute a warrant.
"We do have an obligation to be prudent stewards of taxpayer dollars and if there are anomalies or irregularities, we need to check them out," he said.
Pickett said the flood records always have been open and available to FEMA and the state Bureau of Disaster Services.
A raid on the office with officers from the Idaho State Police standing close by was unnecessary, he said.
"I felt intimidated by their tactics. It was more or less get out of my way, I'm in charge here," he said. "We have some crates ... full of blankets in case they're needed in a disaster and they're prying the lids off the boxes as if we had something hid in there."
Pickett said the commissioners and others working with the recovery center have been concerned about being in compliance with FEMA rules as long as they have been dealing with the agency.
"They are confusing," he said. "We have asked numerous times for the rules and regulations to be provided in writing instead of verbally and we have yet to receive those.
"The federal people come and tell us that you can do this this way' and then when we submit the bills, they say no, that's not authorized,' " he said.
When much of the money was coming into the county, he said, the commissioners repeatedly asked for the guidelines in writing and were told it was still in draft form.
Clearwater County has received "several millions" in flood recovery money, he said, and a check for $506,000 had just been received.