The Stage House was under Greene’s management for ten years. His name appeared in the papers often in connection that venture.
But it was Greene’s term as Ada County Treasurer that caused readers to sit up and take notice. He was elected in 1865. In 1867, residents elected another man whose name doesn’t merit a mention in this story.
J.H.T. Greene refused to leave office upon his defeat. He declined to turn over the books and other paraphernalia associated with his position, even when ordered to do so by a judge. His residence became the Ada County Jail. He was jailed for refusing to put up a $2,000 bond set to assure that he would pay whatever fees and emoluments might come into his hands pending the determination of the suit to oust him. Though “jailed,” he still had the run of the city.
Greene began a hobby of filing writs of Habeas Corpus with judges, one after another, until he found one—the fourth one—who would set him free.
The Idaho Statesman commented about Greene’s refusal to leave office, saying, “the old man thinks he was elected for life.”
What was Greene thinking? He argued the election of 1867 was not legal because it was not a “general election” as provided by the legislature, and that no provision for a special election had been made. The court bought that argument, and he remained the treasurer.
But was the reason Greene fought so hard for his job because he believed so much in the rule of law? Maybe. It seems that Greene might also have been reluctant to turn over the books because he considered it risky to do so. Shortly after his success in retaining his office, Greene was indicted for embezzling $32,000 in county funds. His defense was that just because the county was broke didn’t mean he’d embezzled money.
The Idaho Statesman recounted one incident where “someone” had changed a $15 warrant to a $250 warrant, stating, “We find unmistakable signs of tampering with the figures and body of the warrant by some person who has a very limited education in the art of forgery.”
Greene was charged with forgery and embezzlement. Taxpayers in the county began to get grumpy. One letter writer said, “I am at a loss whether to pay my taxes or not. If there is no show of it benefitting the county, I am disposed to resist the collector.”
A district court judge found that “It (was) difficult to get facts, figures and dates positive enough to make them stick.” He dismissed the charges. The Idaho Supreme Court had a go at the embezzlement case and came back with a Nolle Prosequi ruling, meaning they would no longer prosecute it. As the Statesman explained, “the books (have been) kept in so loose a manner that the required facts cannot be elicited from them.”
Books so poorly kept that no one could understand them would seem to be enough to cast a cloud over Treasurer Greene’s service. Yet, his death notice, printed November 13, 1875, called him “one of the old and respected citizens of this place.” The notice made no mention of his service as Ada County Treasurer, and respected as he might have been, the mortuary spelled his name wrong, omitting the final E.