Boise Mayor's N.Y. Trip Prompts New Idaho Accounting Practices

BOISE, Idaho -- The state Senate voted yesterday to tighten accounting practices for Idaho cities, citing a New York night on the town and other questionable spending by the former Boise mayor.

The Association of Idaho Cities, which backed the legislation, said the state's other 199 cities have procedures that would have spotted and refused to pay suspect expenses hounding ousted Boise Mayor Brent Coles.

Coles abruptly resigned Friday after being charged with a misdemeanor for illegally accepting from Blue Cross of Idaho a trip for himself and his wife to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Blue Cross had the city employees' dental insurance contract at the time and received the general health insurance contract at the beginning of this year.

Coles, the former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, came under fire last fall after the disclosure of a side trip he and an aide took to New York City while at a conference in Buffalo. They met the city attorney and her aide for dinner, then went to the musical "Oklahoma!" Coles called it a bonus recognizing the work of the city attorney.

Coles apologized and promised to repay the city for the trip, but new disclosures of other questionable taxpayer-financed expenditures followed. That prompted the investigation by the attorney general's office, an independent audit of Coles's staff spending and the forced resignation of the mayor's top aide.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who filed the misdemeanor charges last week, said his investigation was continuing.

* MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. -- Most of the 350 homes in a low-income housing development were evacuated because 17-inch-deep snow blocked chimneys and caused a buildup of carbon monoxide gas, police said. No injuries were reported among residents of the Tricia Meadows development, who went to a temporary shelter in a school less than a mile away.

* SOMERSET, Ky. -- A twin-engine plane crashed on approach to a small airport, killing three of seven people on board, police said. Pilot Shalabh Agarwal, 32, of Valparaiso, Ind., and Joseph A. Maclish, 41, of Crown Point, Ind., were killed along with an 8-year-old triplet son of Mia Zetter, 35, who was hospitalized. Her other two 8-year-olds and a 10-year-old survived.

* MADISONVILLE, Ky. -- A fire at a wood-frame house that did not have smoke alarms killed five people. They included a 25-year-old woman; her sons, ages 6 and 7; her daughter, 2; and a 39-year-old man. His wife, 45, was hospitalized in critical condition.

* MIAMI -- A private plane en route from Miami to the Bahamas crashed into the Atlantic, killing all four people on board, the Coast Guard said. The twin-engine Piper aircraft went down about eight miles east of Miami shortly after takeoff. Killed in the crash were Al Gustinger, who authorities said was in his 70s; Erik and Idel Gustinger, both in their 30s; and Erik Gustinger Jr., 7, the Coast Guard said.

-- From News Services