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Boise Mayor Resigns Over Ethics Charges

From Associated Press

Besieged Mayor Brent Coles abruptly resigned Friday, minutes after he was charged with illegally accepting a trip to last year’s Olympics in Salt Lake City from an insurance company.

Coles, who had led the city of 186,000 for a decade, said in a statement that he was innocent.

“I’m resigning today not because I believe I’m guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, but because I do not want these charges to impair the conduct of the city’s important business,” said Coles, 51.

Coles, who gained national recognition two years ago when he was president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and his wife received air travel, hotel accommodations and event admissions from Blue Cross of Idaho from Feb. 14-18 for the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

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The misdemeanor charges were filed by the attorney general’s office under the state’s corruption laws, which prohibit a public official from benefiting financially from a person or organization that does business with that official’s government.

The maximum penalty is a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, state Atty. Gen. Lawrence Wasden said.

Coles has been under investigation for more than a month following mounting criticism of City Hall travel and spending by him and his aides. Among other things, he billed the city for a trip to New York that included a Broadway musical and dinner.

Coles was elected to the Boise City Council in 1983 and served for several months as its acting mayor in 1992 before being formally named to the post in January 1993. He was elected to the job that November.

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“Serving as mayor of this city was my childhood dream,” Coles said. “I believe in Boise. I love Boise.”

Blue Cross said the National BlueCross BlueShield Assn. is a longtime sponsor of the Olympic Games. Idaho’s Olympic Committee had scheduled Feb. 16, 2002, as Idaho Day in Salt Lake City, and Coles had been asked to deliver a speech there, the company said.

Coles’ critics mounted a recall campaign and this week handed in 26,000 signatures. They needed 18,693 registered voters to force a recall election, although city staff had not announced by Friday whether they had reached that mark.

“Absolutely, the writing was on the wall for the mayor,” said attorney Joe Filicetti, an organizer of the Committee to Recall Mayor Coles. " ... This isn’t a sad day for the community.”

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Filicetti said the city’s problems are widespread, and he called for an “old-fashioned house-cleaning of City Hall.”

City Council President Jerome Mapp said he is acting mayor until Tuesday, when the council will decide whether he should continue in the job until the next election.


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