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Posts tagged: Lawrence Wasden

Learning about open meetings, records

There was an excellent turnout last night in Payette, where more than 35 folks filled the historic Portia Club to learn about Idaho's open meetings and public records laws at the latest IDOG seminar - that's Idahoans for Openness in Government. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was the featured speaker, along with Assistant Chief Deputy Brian Kane and myself as president of IDOG. Those attending ranged from local government officials to interested citizens to news reporters and editors. They participated in interactive skits to learn how to comply - and how not to comply - with the laws, received handouts including the Attorney General's manuals on both laws, and had the opportunity to have all their questions answered after detailed presentations from Kane on how the laws work.

Among the questions from the audience: Is this meeting tonight legal under the Open Meeting Law? The answer: Yes, and it's not a meeting under the law's definitions - which define a meeting as the “convening of a governing body of a public agency to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision on any matter.”

More than 60 people attended a similar session in Boise last week; the next one is scheduled for Nampa on Jan. 9th, at 7 p.m. at Nampa City Hall; there's more info here and here.

Glaxo to pay Idaho $1.33M in drug settlement

Pharmaceutical manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline LLC will pay Idaho $1.33 million as part of a 38-state settlement over its promotion of its diabetes drug, Avandia. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and 38 other state attorneys general contended that the firm claimed the drug had cardiovascular benefits, when it actually may increase cardiovascular risks. The firm admitted no wrongdoing, but it agreed to change its marketing practices for the drug and to pay $90 million to the states to resolve the lawsuit. Click below for Wasden's full announcement. The money will go to Idaho's consumer protection account, where it's subject to legislative appropriation.

Thousands of Idahoans who lost homes to foreclosure eligible for payments under settlement

More than 12,000 Idahoans who lost their homes to foreclosure between 2008 and 2011 are eligible for payments under a national settlement over loan servicing errors that may have led to foreclosures, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced today. The eligible Idahoans will be receiving application packets in the mail to apply for the payments, which will start at $840.

“This payment is not intended to compensate Idahoans for the loss of their homes,” Wasden said. “Rather, it is a step toward accountability for unfair business practices that harmed Idaho homeowners. I remain committed to improving the mortgage servicing industry for the benefit of Idaho’s current and future homeowners.” Wasden joined in the $25 billion nationwide settlement with five national banks in February: Ally/GMAC, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. They're the largest servicers of mortgage loans in the nation. Click below for Wasden's full announcement, including information for affected borrowers.

Idaho gets $2.9M in drug settlement

Idaho will receive $2,847,890 as its share of a multistate drug settlement, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced today; the $181 million settlement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is over improper marketing of four anti-psychotic drugs. The company allegedly pushed the drugs for unapproved off-label uses; as part of the settlement with 37 states, Janssen admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to change how it markets the drugs and refrain from false, misleading or deceptive promotions. Idaho's share of the settlement will go to the Attorney General's consumer protection account; click below for Wasden's full announcement.

Idaho recovers $1.7 million in drug settlement

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― Idaho has reached a $1.7 million settlement with a pharmaceutical company over allegations of excessive wholesale prices paid by the state's Medicaid program. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced the deal Monday with Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Watson Pharma, Inc. Watson is among the top four generic drug companies in the world. Wasden sued the company in 2007 seeking to recover taxpayer money used to pay high prices charged to Idaho Medicaid for prescription drugs. Before filing the lawsuit, Wasden said an investigation by his office found drug companies like Watson were posting false and inflated prices for their drugs on the wholesale market. The state will use about $1.05 million to reimburse overpayments made by Medicaid; $50,000 will cover the state's investigative and legal costs; and $423,725 will go to the the state's general fund. So far, Idaho has recovered $22 million in similar lawsuits with drug makers.

Idaho to get $1.6M from Glaxo settlement

A national legal settlement with drug maker GlaxoSmithKline will bring Idaho more than $1.6 million, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced today, including $732,750 to reimburse Idaho's Medicaid program, and $877,679 to go into Idaho's general fund. The firm will pay another $3.7 million to the federal government to reimburse its increased costs for Idaho Medicaid due to the fraud. Overall, the company agreed to pay $3 billion, including a $1 billion criminal fine. Click below for the full announcement from Wasden's office.

Firm that was luring vets to certain for-profit colleges must give up website, turn it over to V.A.

Idaho is among 20 states that are part of a consumer protection settlement forcing the shutdown of a California-based website that targeted military veterans to attend for-profit colleges. The states charged that the company's websites, including GIBill.com, were deceptive and misleading, giving the appearance that they were operated or endorsed by the U.S. government or military. They directed users only to the website owner's clients, which were presented as “eligible GI Bill schools.”

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said, “This settlement ends the deceptive practices this company used to mislead the people who risk their lives to protect our freedom. Our veterans and active duty military personnel have earned their educational benefits and should not be subjected to trickery when deciding where best to use those benefits.”

As part of the settlement, the company, QuinStreet Inc. of Foster City, Calif., will pay $2.5 million, including $100,000 to reimburse Idaho for its costs to participate in the case, and the firm will relinquish the domain “GIBill.com” to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which will use it to educate service members about benefits available to them. Click below for a full announcement from Wasden's office.

Idaho wins $2.6M drug pricing settlement

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has announced a settlement with prescription drug maker GlaxoSmithKline for $2.6 million, settling charges of drug overpricing to Idaho's Medicaid program. Since 2005, this is the 14th such case Wasden has resolved, resulting in total recoveries of more than $20 million. Click below for Wasden's full announcement. Three more cases, naming eight other drug manufacturers, still are pending.

Debt collection firm agrees to repay Idahoans after abuses

Idahoans who were targeted in misleading and deceptive debt-collection practices by a national debt collection firm, NCO Financial Systems Inc., are eligible for a share in a $50,000 restitution pool, under a multistate settlement announced today by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. The firm also agreed to change its collection practices. “This settlement is important because it benefits prior, present and future consumers,” Wasden said. “It provides for a restitution fund to assist damaged consumers, while also protecting current and future consumers from potential debt collection abuses.” Click below for his full announcement; Idahoans affected have three years to apply for the funds.

Drug settlement brings Idaho $625K

Two prescription drug manufacturers, Mylan Laboratories Inc. and Mylan Pharmaceuticals, have agreed to pay Idaho $625,000 in a legal settlement over allegations of overcharging the state's Medicaid program, without admitting wrongdoing. “This settlement addresses the harm incurred by Idaho’s taxpayers and the State,” said Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “It should stop the reporting of false and misleading drug prices and provide the state significant financial relief. This settlement is good for Idaho because it successfully resolves this dispute without the need for further, costly litigation.” Click below for the Attorney General's full announcement.

Attorney general, sheriffs assn unveil wallet card for abuse victims with protective orders

The Idaho Attorney General's office and the Idaho Sheriffs Association have gotten together to make available free, wallet-sized cards to Idahoans who have a long-term civil protection order, so they can quickly alert law enforcement officers to the order in case of violations. The cards will include a photograph of the person whom the order requires to stay away. “It is much easier to carry with you than the actual, multiple-page legal-size court order,” said Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “In case of a potential violation of an order, a law enforcement officer can quickly refer to the Hope Card for more information.”

The new “Idaho Hope Card” is for people with long-term civil protection orders of 12 months or more; the orders protect victims of domestic violence by imposing criminal penalties on abusers who contact their victims in violation of the orders. There's more info here.

More than 230 attend open-govt seminars in North Idaho, Boise session mulled for spring

More than 230 people throughout North Idaho attended open government seminars last week sponsored by Idahoans for Openness in Government, from Sandpoint to Coeur d'Alene to Moscow to Lewiston; each was led by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, and every attendee got the latest copies of his Idaho Open Meeting Law Manual and his Idaho Public Records Law Manual. Local and state government officials, reporters and editors, and interested citizens all were invited and turned out in force; you can read my full Sunday column here about the seminars. IDOG likely will be holding another session this spring in Boise.
  

Lewiston open government seminar an eye-opener for crowd of 50

At the IDOG open government seminar in Lewiston on Thursday night, A.L. “Butch” Alford, owner of the Lewiston Tribune and a charter board member of IDOG, told a crowd of 50, “Our mission is to foster open government, supervised by an informed and engaged citizenry. We believe we all benefit when the public, the media and government officials are fully aware of the public's rights to access government information and observe the conduct of the public's business.” Added Alford, “Tonight's mission is to enlighten the public, government officials from all levels, and the press.”

All were well-represented in the group that filled a lecture hall at Lewis-Clark State College, from city council members to board clerks to reporters and editors to a state lawmaker. In their evaluations of the evening session, one reporter wrote, “A terrific review - and enjoyable.” An elected official wrote, “My entity needs to review our open meetings.” Wrote a school board member, “We need to be more careful with email,” adding that her takeaway was, “Don't stall on public records requests and watch the emails.”

The session was an eye-opener for some in the audience, including one who's been working with a county task force and who realized he may have slipped up on open meeting law requirements. “I MAY be in a hell of a lot of trouble,” he wrote in his evaluation, adding three exclamation points; he conferred directly with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden after the session on the steps he should take to make sure he's in compliance.

“Compliance is very critical,” wrote a local government employee in her evaluation. An elected official wrote, “You can work with the law.”

The session focused on the Idaho Open Meeting Law and Public Records Law, what they require and what they don't, and how everyone can make sure they comply with them. Wasden, who has led all 23 of the IDOG sessions held around the state since 2004, said, “In order for citizens to be involved, they have to know and understand what their government is doing.”

Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane told the group, “The No. 1 goal of the open meeting law is compliance. … If you look at the open meeting law as an entity and say, 'How can we get around it?' you've defeated the basic purpose - openness.”

Issued covered included recent changes in the law, including a “cure” process for agencies that allows them to correct an open meeting law violation, and new fee provisions for public records that require any labor charges to be clearly itemized and charged at the hourly pay rate of the lowest-paid employee qualified to handle them, and also make, in most cases, the first two hours of labor and 100 pages of copies free.

There's more information at the IDOG website, www.openidaho.org. IDOG stands for Idahoans for Openness in Government; Wasden's office partners with the group in the open-government education project, which also is supported by the Idaho Press Club, the Idaho Association of Cities, the Association of Idaho Counties, and receives grant funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through the National Freedom of Information Coalition. The Lewiston session wrapped up a week-long run of well-attended open government seminars in North Idaho, starting in Sandpoint on Monday and also hitting Coeur d'Alene and Moscow. A Boise session likely will be held this spring.
  

Moscow crowd learns about open meetings, public records laws

Despite stiff competition - a hard-fought UI basketball game against the Washington State Cougars and the downtown holiday lights parade - nearly 40 people turned out last night for IDOG's open government seminar in the ornate, wood-paneled, hundred-year-old City Council chambers at Moscow City Hall. Those attending included the mayor, city and county attorneys, reporters and editors, academics and clerks, elected officials, interested citizens and agency staffers who deal with open records and meetings questions daily. The session was co-sponsored by the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden told the group that some might think someone making a public records request is “just fishing.” But, he said, “The public records act is a license to fish.” Public records have to be disclosed to the public.

Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane told the group, “Any time you have a question with the open meeting law … resolve all doubts in favor of openness.”

In humorous skits exploring what the public records and open meeting laws require, Moscow City Councilman Walter Steed, shown here, portrayed a lucky reporter - seated next to three county commissioners at a cafe, who are busy illegally conducting the county's business as he overhears. (The commissioners were portrayed by Kenton Bird of the UI, Moscow City Attorney Randy Fife, and Moscow-Pullman Daily News staffer Kelcie Moseley). The scenario is actually based on a real case in Idaho.

The IDOG seminars move to Lewiston tonight.
  

Big crowd, lots of interest at CdA open government seminar

A whopping 92 people attended the open government seminar in Coeur d'Alene last night, sponsored by IDOG, Idahoans for Openness in Government, and co-sponsored by the Spokesman-Review and the Coeur d'Alene Press. Press Managing Editor Mike Patrick told the crowd it was the first time he could remember the two competing newspapers co-sponsoring an event. Among those attending were numerous local government officials and staffers, reporters for a variety of news media, political activists, several former state legislators and lots of interested citizens.


Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden singled out an audience member, former state legislator Gary Ingram, for special recognition: Ingram is the author of much of the Idaho Open Meeting Law, including the key wording in the preamble:

“67-2340. Formation of public policy at open meetings. — The people of the state of Idaho in creating the instruments of government that serve them, do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies so created. Therefore, the legislature finds and declares that it is the policy of this state that the formation of public policy is public business and shall not be conducted in secret.”

Said Wasden, “We owe a great thanks to give to … (Rep.) Ingram for his work on this.”

Also recognized for traveling the farthest to attend: Bannock County Commissioner Howard Manwaring, who traveled from Pocatello to attend the session. It ran well into the evening because the audience had lots of questions, on everything from executive sessions to notice requirements to public records requests to minutes.

In interactive skits to demonstrate various nuances of the open meeting law and the Idaho public records law, actors included Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh, who portrayed an upset county commission chairman, and Kootenai County Commission Chairman Todd Tondee, who portrayed a county prosecutor. Coeur d'Alene Press reporter Maureen Nolan acted the part of “Trusty the city clerk,” opposite Coeur d'Alene Schools Superintendent Hazel Bauman, playing “Crusty, the reporter.”

Among the comments in the evening's evaluations: From a school district clerk: “I learned some new information.” From another public employee: “How to keep my entity legal and in compliance.” Another attendee wrote that he learned: “Documents are meant to be public; give public officials a chance to provide them.” Wrote another, “My organization needs to change agenda format and will probably put minutes/agenda online.”

Every attendee got copies of the latest version of the Attorney General's Open Meeting Law Manual and Public Records Law Manual; both also are online at his website here. Wrote a citizen who attended the Coeur d'Alene seminar, “The booklets will be a great help. There are ways to stay out of 'trouble.'” Wrote another, “Be cooperative, be helpful, when in doubt check the book.” Tonight, the open government seminar will be in Moscow, and tomorrow, Lewiston; there's more info here.

Sandpoint turns out for open government seminar

It's a balmy 28 degrees in Sandpoint this morning, where last night more than 50 people packed the public meeting room at the Sandpoint Library to learn about Idaho's open meetings and public records laws. “Open meetings and public records are very important to us as a citizenry,” Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden told the group.

It was the first of four North Idaho seminars this week sponsored by Idahoans for Openness in Government, IDOG, in partnership with the Attorney General's office and recommended by the Idaho Press Club, the Idaho Association of Counties and the Association of Idaho Cities. Last night's seminar was co-sponsored by the Bonner County Daily Bee; publisher David Keyes said the turnout shows people here really want to know about these issues.

Among the points that got a lot of attention last night: The Open Meeting Law says the public can attend the meeting, but doesn't say they can speak or participate; it just guarantees that citizens can observe. E-mails are public records. Agencies can't take 10 days to decide whether or not to release a public record in response to a request; that decision has to be made within three days - the law only allows taking up to 10 days to provide the records when it takes longer than the specified three days to locate or retrieve them. And a new law passed this year makes the first two hours of labor and the first 100 pages of copies free of charge in public records requests, excepting only those records for which there's a separate fee-setting statute, such as records in court files. “What this means is that 90 percent of your public records requests are going to be free,” Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane told the Sandpoint crowd.

Tonight, it's on to Coeur d'Alene, where there's been high interest, followed by Moscow on Wednesday and Lewiston on Thursday. Full disclosure here: I'm the president and a founding board member of IDOG. Last night was IDOG's 20th open government seminar since 2004, and the first in North Idaho since 2005; Attorney General Wasden has led every seminar. There's more info, including an online guide to these laws, at www.openidaho.org.

Open records, meetings seminars coming to North Idaho next week

Everyone in Idaho should know what is covered - and what's not - by the state's public records and open meetings laws. That's the premise behind a series of educational seminars that Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Idahoans for Openness in Government, or IDOG, have been holding periodically around the state since 2004. Now, the seminars are coming to North Idaho, for the first time since 2005.

Full disclosure here: I'm the president of IDOG, and this long has been an issue close to my heart. We all benefit when everyone, including government officials, members of the news media, and the public, are fully aware of the public's rights to access government information and observe the conduct of the public's business.

IDOG seminars are lively and interactive, and attendees may find themselves playing a part in a skit designed to illustrate a point about one or the other of the laws. They're also free, and include  refreshments. Here's the schedule for the North Idaho seminars:

    * Monday Dec. 5, Sandpoint - 5:30-8 p.m., Sandpoint Library public meeting room, 1407 Cedar Street
.  Co-sponsored by the Bonner Daily Bee
    * Tuesday Dec. 6, Coeur d'Alene - 6-8:30, Spokesman-Review Building 1st floor public meeting room, 608 Northwest Blvd. Co-sponsored by The Spokesman-Review and the Coeur d'Alene Press
    * Wednesday Dec. 7, Moscow - 6-8:30 p.m., Moscow City Hall, City Council Chambers. Co-sponsored by the Moscow-Pullman Daily News
    * Thursday Dec. 8, Lewiston - 6-8:30, Lewis-Clark State College, Sacajawea Hall Room 115. Co-sponsored by the Lewiston Tribune
    
These sessions are free and open to the public, but as space is limited, those who would like to attend are asked to RSVP by Dec. 2 to bzrussell@gmail.com or toll-free to (866) 336-2854. IDOG has sponsored 19 of these seminars around the state since 2004, from Preston to Moscow, from Pocatello to Coeur d'Alene. Each has been personally led by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Attendees get copies of the latest version of Wasden's Idaho Open Meeting Law Manual and Idaho Public Records Law Manual.

IDOG is a broad-based, nonprofit coalition for open government. Like similar coalitions in more than 40 other states, IDOG's mission is to promote open government and freedom of information; its board includes people from inside and outside of government, the media, civic organizations and more. IDOG's seminars are funded in part by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, through the National Freedom of Information Coalition. There's more information at IDOG's website, www.openidaho.org.

Cronin selected as Aspen Institute fellow

Idaho state Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise, has been selected as a fellow of the Aspen Institute, in its Aspen-Rodel Fellowship program that focuses on transcending political partisanship and focusing attention on leadership and governance. Cronin is only the second Idahoan to be selected for the program; the first was Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden in 2007. The program selects 24 elected officials a year, half Democrats and half Republicans and all under age 50; the fellows will participate in three weekend seminars in Aspen, all expenses paid.

Mickey Edwards, a former longtime Republican congressman from Oklahoma who chairs the program, said, “Fellows are selected based on their reputations for intelligence, thoughtfulness, and a willingness to work across party lines to seek solutions to public problems.” Click below for the institute's full announcement.

Mortgage relief scam targets Idaho homeowners

Idaho homeowners are being targeted in a scam in which notices that look like government forms are mailed to them or posted on their doors, inviting them to join lawsuits against their mortgage lenders and claiming they can get large principal reductions or other monetary relief. “The scam is a pretext to collect an unlawful $5,000 upfront fee from homeowners,” said Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.  “The representations in the solicitations are false and are designed to prey on vulnerable homeowners.  My office is currently investigating this company.” The company called Corvus Law Group; click below for the attorney general's full news release and consumer alert.

Drug maker to pay Idaho $2.5 million

Prescription drug manufacturer AstraZeneca has agreed to pay Idaho $2.5 million in a legal settlement related to overpricing drugs for the state's Medicaid program, in violation of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act. More than $620,000 of the payment will go to the state's general fund; $50,000 to the consumer protection account to cover investigative and legal costs; and $1.5 million to the state’s Cooperative Welfare Fund as a credit against the federal government’s next payment to Idaho Medicaid, of which the feds pay about 70 percent of the costs.

“This settlement provides relief to Idaho taxpayers and brings the matter to a conclusion without the need for continued litigation,” said Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.  “I appreciate that the companies were willing to work with my office to reach an appropriate resolution.” Wasden has resolved 10 such cases with drug manufacturers since 2005 and recovered more than $13 million; cases against 18 other drug manufacturers still are pending. Click below for Wasden's full announcement.

AstraZeneca spokeswoman Laura Woodin said, “AstraZeneca has competed responsibly with respect to pricing and marketing of our medicines, and we firmly believe that we have acted at all times in accordance with the law.  Although we deny liability, after years of costly litigation, we believe that this agreement was the appropriate way to resolve this matter quickly and allow the company to focus on our core mission to deliver meaningful medicines to patients.”

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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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