Boise & Garden City

Former Stampede owner, who opposes Boise stadium, banned from City Hall over altercation

A witness said he saw Boise businessman Bill Ilett, left, strike city official John Brunelle, right, at City Hall.
A witness said he saw Boise businessman Bill Ilett, left, strike city official John Brunelle, right, at City Hall.

Emotions run high in Boise when a proposed stadium comes up. Six months ago, an angry crowd cursed at and ridiculed a local attorney who was presenting a plan for the stadium.

An incident Tuesday at City Hall wasn’t as loud, but it might have been a crime.

The city of Boise plans to ban Bill Ilett, a notable opponent of a proposed West End stadium, from City Hall for provoking a “physical confrontation” during a City Council meeting Tuesday, city spokesman Mike Journee said.

Ilett appears to have confronted John Brunelle moments after the council approved a measure that could someday provide money for the stadium. Brunelle is executive director of Capital City Development Corp., Boise’s urban renewal agency. If the stadium is built, the agency likely would provide some of the money to build it.

What exactly happened between Ilett and Brunelle is unclear. A police officer providing security Tuesday “witnessed the battery and then stepped in to intervene,” Boise Police Department spokeswoman Haley Williams said in an email. But Williams did not identify the people involved, and the officer’s report was not available.

One of Idaho law’s definitions of battery is “actual, intentional and unlawful touching or striking of another person against the will of the other.”

That wouldn’t apply to Tuesday’s incident, Ilett told the Statesman. Ilett said he and Brunelle had a “short discussion” and exchanged “sharp words.” But he said it was not a physical confrontation.

That’s not true, Journee said. The confrontation was both physical and “one-sided,” he said, and “created a hostile environment.”

Brunelle declined to comment beyond an email statement that read, in part, “it’s now my responsibility to tell the authorities what happened to me, and, from there, trust the process.”

Only a few people who happened to be standing or sitting next to Brunelle and Ilett saw what happened.

“No criminal charges have been filed but the officer is completing an informational report should there be a desire to pursue charges in the future,” Williams said.

Ilett was Brunelle’s boss from 2001-2006. Brunelle was a minority owner and general manager of the Idaho Stampede, Boise’s now departed NBA Development League team. Ilett was the team’s managing partner. They’ve known each other for 30 years, Ilett said.

Last year, Ilett and former Albertsons CEO Gary Michael formed a group called Concerned Boise Taxpayers to oppose the stadium, originally planned for a lot east of Americana Boulevard and north of the Boise River, where a former Kmart building stands. Developer Chris Schoen now hopes to build the stadium, along with a variety of commercial buildings to surround it, in the West End between Whitewater Park Boulevard, Main Street, 27th Street and Fairview Avenue.

Ilett and Michael say the main reason they oppose Schoen’s project is the proposed use of money from the city, CCDC and Greater Boise Auditorium District, which taxes hotel room rentals.

As CCDC’s top staffer, Brunelle is close to the stadium proposal’s details, but he has not explicitly backed it. Mayor David Bieter, who appointed Brunelle to his post and sits on the CCDC board, is a longtime advocate of a new baseball stadium.

Ilett’s ban from City Hall will last as long as police are investigating the altercation with Brunelle, Journee said. Violating the ban would be trespassing. The city often imposes the same type of ban on people who become so confrontational that they cause city workers or the public to fear for their safety.