GRANGEVILLE — Unlike workers in state and federal offices located in Idaho County, next year county employees will not have the day off work to commemorate Juneteenth.
Idaho County Commission Chairman Skip Brandt said during the commissioners’ regular weekly meeting Tuesday that the board had received an opinion from the Idaho Association of Counties that Idaho County is not mandated to follow the federal lead as a county holiday.
“We’re not recognizing it now so there’s no real action,” Brandt said. “The county never recognized it (Juneteenth).”
The other two commissioners, Ted Lindsley and Denis Duman, did not comment on the matter and the commissioners did not take a vote. The issue appears to be dead.
Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee Day or Black Independence Day, was recognized as a federal holiday this year on June 17 when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. The day commemorates the emancipation of African American slaves and is often observed to celebrate African American culture.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little has recognized Juneteenth, allowing state workers a paid holiday from their jobs.
The issue was brought to the commissioners’ attention by county Treasurer Abbie Hudson because next year, Juneteenth — which officially is June 19 — falls on a Sunday, meaning government employees ordinarily would have the following Monday off work. June 20, however, is the last day for second-half tax collections and Hudson wondered if that deadline could be extended to June 21.
When asked by the Lewiston Tribune whether the commissioners’ action was motivated by a political or racist agenda, Brandt replied in an email:
“In this WOKE movement world I recognize that I am a white male, thus there is nothing I can do to not be called a racist (and a sexist as far as that goes). Plus, I have never and will never slack away from doing what I think is best for Idaho County. … We have enough recognized holidays. American(s) need to get back to work; not find another excuse not to work. I am not against anyone celebrating it. The real question, as I suggested today is, where are the holidays going to stop?”
County Clerk Kathy M. Ackerman added that a recent poll of the state’s county clerks indicated that 13 counties said “yes” to observing Juneteenth and 11 said “no” or are undecided. Ackerman said not all clerks have responded to the poll yet, “but it doesn’t appear that everyone is on board with Juneteenth. Additionally, every paid holiday costs the county approximately $15,500.”
County employees who work more than 37 hours a week are allowed 11 paid holidays during the year, including New Years Day; Martin Luther King, Jr/Human Rights Day; Presidents Day; Memorial Day; Thanksgiving and the following Friday; Christmas Day; Labor Day; Columbus Day; Veterans’ Day and Independence Day (July 4).
In a social media post last week, B.J. Swanson, the Latah County treasurer, said her office plans to respect the Juneteenth holiday by being closed on June 20, 2022, and accommodations will be made for taxpayers to meet the property tax deadline with no penalties or interest applied. Swanson noted that the extension of the tax due deadline is anticipated and allowed in Idaho Code 73-109.
Seth Grigg, executive director of the Idaho Association of Counties, was unavailable for comment Tuesday. Brian Kane of the Idaho Attorney General’s Office also could not immediately be reached for comment.
Hedberg may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 983-2326.