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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Idaho public records law

Ombudsman: Idaho’s public records process needs strengthening, and a venue short of court for appeals

Four months into her new job, Idaho’s public records ombudsman, Cally Younger, says more work needs to be done to clarify and strengthen Idaho's public records process. She's surveying state agencies and meeting with stakeholders in advance of the 2015 Legislature, and recommending potential changes to her boss, Gov. Butch Otter, reports Idaho Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell.

Under Idaho’s current public records law, a citizen or journalist who is denied access to a public record has to sue in court to challenge the denial. Younger told the Statesman that’s a problem and one she’s working to fix with new legislation to be proposed next year. “I think the biggest shortcoming is that litigation is the only remedy for a requester, which in many cases can be cost-prohibitive to pursuing withheld records,” Younger said. “That is one of the biggest issues that I am going to look into. I think it is important.” She added, “We actually had our first meeting last month to talk about our goals for this session. I am hopeful that we can add that review process and also clear up some ambiguities in the law.”

Younger also said she's working to improve response to public records requests by state agencies. Sewell’s full article and a Q-and-A with Younger ran Sunday; they’re online here.

Twin Falls newspaper sues school district over denial of public records

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — The Times-News has filed a lawsuit against the Gooding County School District after officials denied two public records request. The newspaper reports ( that the lawsuit filed Monday involves requests for copies of separation agreements for Superintendent Heather Williams and Gooding High School Principal Chris Comstock. The school district in January denied the requests, contending the agreements are confidential and not available to the public. The lawsuit contends the school district failed to cite a legal reason for denying the requests. The Times-News publisher Travis Quast says the public has the right to the information because the district is funded by taxpayers. A hearing is set for Feb. 25 in Gooding County District Court.

The Times-News has its full story online here.

UPDATE: Today, the district decided to hand over the records after all.

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.

Blackfoot school board admits secret payouts to former supt, open meeting law violations

The Idaho Falls Post Register reports that the school board in Blackfoot agreed in April to a $210,000 contract buyout with the district's former superintendent, then took steps to keep the payments secret, according to documents the district released under a court order Monday. The documents were made public pursuant to an open records lawsuit filed by former teacher Joyce Bingham and the Post Register newspaper. To ensure no one found out about the deal, the board tried to hide the document in Crane's personnel file, the newspaper reported, a move 6th District Judge David Nye rejected. The board also admitted twice violating the Idaho Open Meeting Law, publicly apologized for the violation and promised to seek training in open meeting law compliance from the Idaho Attorney General’s office or the Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Click below for a full report from the AP and the Post Register.

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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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