Boise & Garden City

Former Idaho Stampede owner hit Boise official ‘upside the head,’ witness says

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.

A Boise man says he saw former Idaho Stampede owner Bill Ilett strike the executive director of Boise’s urban renewal agency “upside the head” during a City Council meeting at City Hall.

Dave Bennett, a retired chemist and microbiologist for Analytical Laboratories, told the Idaho Statesman that he didn’t realize what was going on when the altercation started Tuesday night. Bennett went to City Hall to testify about a proposal for the city to accept ownership of The Grove Plaza from the urban renewal agency, the Capital City Development Corp. CCDC proposed transferring ownership with the caveat that the city must spend any proceeds from any possible future sale on a stadium.

Ilett was there for the same reason. He has been a notable opponent of a developer’s proposal to build a new Boise stadium with public money. After the council voted to take possession of The Grove — with the stadium caveat — Ilett stood and walked toward the doors of the council chambers, Bennett said.

Ilett’s path took him by John Brunelle, the agency director, who was sitting on the edge of the aisle, two or three rows behind where Ilett had been. Bennett said he was two chairs to Brunelle’s left.

Ilett bent down and said something to Brunelle. Bennett said he couldn’t make that out, except that Ilett cursed. And then Ilett took it a step further, he said.

“I saw him hit him,” Bennett said Friday. “I thought he hit him twice. It was a slap — open hand slap — upside the head.”

Bennett said he wasn’t sure if it was a right- or left-handed slap. He also wasn’t sure if the slap was a forehand or a backhand. Afterward, he said, Ilett continued to the exit.

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Dave Bennett

“John was stunned, so he just sat there for a few seconds,” he said. “Then he jumped up and walked out after him.”

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

Bennett said he went to the lobby outside the council chambers a couple of minutes after the altercation and saw Brunelle and Ilett talking it out. A police officer was keeping an eye on them and making sure the men didn’t touch each other.

Ilett apologized several times to Brunelle, Bennett said.

Ilett declined to comment Friday. Bennett said he gave a statement to the police officer. That statement and the officer’s report were not available Friday.

The city issued a no-trespassing order against Ilett — a common response to confrontations at City Hall — and was trying to deliver it to him by hand late Friday afternoon, city spokesman Mike Journee said.

Journee declined to comment further, citing an ongoing police investigation. Brunelle also has declined to comment on details of incident.