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Posts tagged: Idaho open meeting law

Crowd turns out for open government workshop in Lewiston

More than 45 people gathered at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston last night for the first of four open-government workshops in North Idaho this week featuring Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. The free sessions, sponsored by Idahoans for Openness in Government, or IDOG (full disclosure – I’m IDOG’s president), cover how to comply with Idaho’s two key open government laws, the Idaho Open Meeting Law and the Idaho Public Records Act, and are for local and state government officials and employees, reporters, editors and photographers from all media, and interested citizens.

Monday night’s session, co-sponsored by the Lewiston Tribune included interactive skits in which audience members took on roles, including the one pictured above, in which Doug Bauer of the Tribune portrayed a county prosecutor and Jaynie Bentz of the Port of Lewiston a county commissioner, helping illustrate the do’s and don’ts and generating laughs along the way. Lewiston Tribune Publisher Butch Alford, at left, guaranteed the session would be worth the price of admission, or he’d refund double the price.

Among the issues that came up during the session: Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane noted that members of public boards shouldn’t be texting one another during meetings. “We’ve actually had cases of folks texting during a meeting and not having the discussion,” he said. “If you’re texting during the meeting, you’re robbing the public of the purpose of the Open Meeting Law.” Plus, he noted, those texts become public records and the public’s entitled to see them.

He also emphasized a line in the Open Meeting Law that says the “mere presence of legal counsel” does not justify a closed executive session; the law requires more than that. “The corollary to that is folks will send an email and copy it to their attorney, and claim it’s attorney-client privilege” to evade the public records law, Kane said. “It doesn’t work that way.”

When an audience member asked where notice should be posted if a board meeting is held at a board member’s home, the answer was: That’s not advised. A public meeting means anyone can come in, even to that home. But if that’s the place, notice must be posted somewhere prominent, like on the front door or the mailbox out front.

Additional IDOG workshops will be held tonight in Moscow; Wednesday night in Coeur d’Alene; and Thursday afternoon in Sandpoint. There are details here on locations, times and how to RSVP.

Newspaper sues Jefferson County commissioners over open meeting violation

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — The Post Co. has filed a lawsuit against the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners contending the board is in violation of Idaho's open meeting law. The Post Register reports (http://bit.ly/JoFGnG) the lawsuit filed Friday in 7th District Court says commissioners broke the law on Nov. 14 when they reached an agreement with Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Robin Dunn in executive session. The Post Co. contends the meeting was illegal because of the posting of an improper agenda, a final decision was made in executive session, and commissioners didn't keep accurate minutes of the executive session. The Post Co. is requesting that actions taken by the commission on Nov. 14 be made “null and void.” The company is also wants the commission to pay legal fees of at least $3,000.

Open government group objects to closed Twin Falls meetings

Idahoans for Openness in Government filed a complaint against the city of Twin Falls Tuesday, asking county Prosecutor Grant Loebs to look into the City Council’s practice of delegating city business to subcommittees that meet secretly, flouting the Idaho Open Meeting Law. The council voted 4-2 on Nov. 12 to continue the practice, after the mayor said the city would have to hire another city employee to take minutes for the 14 subcommittees.

The Twin Falls Times-News has an article here on the complaint and dispute; Loebs told the newspaper he’ll investigate. “I’ll take it seriously,” he said. Full disclosure here: I filed the complaint as the president of IDOG, which last month held a seminar on Idaho's open meeting and public records law in Twin Falls that was attended by more than 100 people. The Idaho Open Meeting Law applies to subagencies of governing bodies if they have “the authority to make decisions or recommendations to a public agency regarding any matter.”

Mayor Greg Lanting said in an email Tuesday that the city now plans to open many, though not all, of its subcommittees; Loebs said he hopes to have more information about what the city’s been doing by the first week of December.

Looking at what’s a public record, what’s open, what’s not under Idaho law…

I’ll be hitting the road next week for four IDOG open government seminars in the Wood River Valley, the Magic Valley and Eastern Idaho, designed to educate local government officials, reporters and the public on what is covered – and what is not – by Idaho’s two key open government laws, the Idaho Open Meeting Law and the Idaho Public Records Law. These workshops, led by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and coordinated by IDOG, Idahoans for Openness in Government (of which I’m president and a co-founder), have been held in locations across the state since 2004; most recently, three were held last winter in the Treasure Valley, and next year, more are planned for North Idaho.

If you’re anywhere near Hailey (Monday evening), Twin Falls (Tuesday evening), Fort Hall (Wednesday evening) or Rexburg (Thursday evening) next week, please consider attending! All the sessions will start at 6 p.m. These sessions are recommended by the Office of the Attorney General, the Association of Idaho Cities, the Idaho Association of Counties and the Idaho Press Club. They are free and include refreshments; because space is limited, attendees are asked to RSVP; you can see all the details here.

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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