Posts tagged: Lawrence Wasden
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The state attorney general's office says Idaho residents are eligible for restitution from a Utah-based payday loan lender that was not licensed to practice in the state and attempted to garnish the wages of borrowers without a court order. Attorney General Lawrence says Flobridge Group, LLC has agreed to refund borrowers who sent the company payments after receiving collection notices, wage garnishment requests or court documents. The company agreed to the refunds as part of a settlement. Wasden says Idaho barred Flobridge Group from payday lending within its borders last year because the company wasn't licensed by the Department of Finance. Idaho claims an investigation found the lender hounded borrowers who missed payments with repeated calls, emails and texts to them and their employers while also threatening unauthorized legal action.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A global pharmaceutical company has agreed to pay Idaho $47,000 to settle a fraud lawsuit over a prescription drug for treating multiple sclerosis. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced the settlement Wednesday. Idaho's case is part of bigger lawsuit involved several states and the federal government against EMD Serono, Inc. The company makes Rebif, a prescription drug used to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis. State and federal attorneys alleged the company made inappropriate payments to hundreds of doctors for prescribing Rebif between 2002 and 2009. Of Idaho's share, more than $18,000 will go to the state Medicaid program as restitution, while the additional $28,000 will go into the state's general fund. Altogether, the company agreed to pay more than $44.3 million to the federal government and other states.
Scammers from Canada have been targeting Idaho seniors, posing as grandchildren who have run into trouble while abroad and need money wired right away; three Idaho families have fallen for the scam in the past two weeks, the Idaho Attorney General's office reports, and lost thousands of dollars. “You may think that you wouldn’t fall for these scams, but they’re designed to catch you off guard,” said Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “Con artists play on your fears to make you do things you wouldn’t normally do.” Click below to read the full “Consumer Alert” Wasden issued today.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Complaints about mortgage practices kept lawyers in Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's office busy last year. Wasden released his annual consumer protection report for 2010 on Tuesday. He says his attorneys handled 261 complaints about loans, compared to just 109 in 2009. In response, Wasden says his office pursued several enforcement actions against deceptive loan modification companies. It also hired a housing counselor to assist Idaho homeowners and spearheaded a public education program related to foreclosures, mortgage modifications and purchasing a home. Other significant consumer protection activity included lawsuits and settlements with pharmaceutical manufacturers over their marketing and pricing of drugs. Wasden says lawyers in the consumer protection division recovered nearly $6 million in restitution, the second largest amount ever recovered by the attorney general's office.
It turns out that eating a particular yogurt a day for two weeks won’t solve intestinal problems after all, and drinking a particular dairy drink won’t give you immunity from colds or the flu. Now The Dannon Company Inc. will pay Idaho $425,000 as part of a multi-state settlement over its “unsubstantiated and unlawful marketing claims,” according to Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who joined with the attorneys general of 38 other states in a $21 million settlement with the yogurt firm.
Under the settlement, Dannon doesn’t admit any wrongdoing, but it promises not to claim that Activia yogurt and DanActive dairy drinks “can prevent, treat, cure or mitigate disease,” and the firm is required to “possess competent and reliable scientific evidence to support otherwise permissible claims about the health benefits, performance, efficacy or safety of its probiotic food products.” Click below to read Wasden’s full announcement of the settlement.
Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on today’s Idaho Supreme Court decision tossing out Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s constitutional challenge that charged that the state Land Board set rents for state-owned cabin sites too low, and Wasden’s announcement that, based on the high court’s procedural ruling, he’ll now refile the challenge in district court. Meanwhile, state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, who like Wasden serves on the Land Board, issued this statement:
“At this point, what is best for kids is to stop spending precious tax dollars on attorneys in this case. As I said before, if the Attorney General thinks the current cottage site lease rates are unconstitutional, then as a fellow member of the Land Board he needs to put a motion on the table that he believes is constitutional and let the Board debate it in a public forum. We’ve already spent too many tax dollars on this matter and going to district court without first putting a proposal on the table will just continue to cost taxpayers, and ultimately schoolchildren, dollars that are need elsewhere.”
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden issued this statement following the Idaho Supreme Court’s endowment lands cottage site lease decision today:
“I appreciate the Court’s consideration of our petition. We knew going in that a writ of prohibition is an extraordinary remedy. Nonetheless, we chose this course in the hope of obtaining a speedy answer to the underlying question of whether the Land Board is fulfilling its statutory and constitutional duties to the beneficiaries. The Court’s decision only means that the underlying issue must now proceed through the normal course of litigation. Because of the critical importance of resolving this long-standing question, I plan to follow the Supreme Court’s advice and proceed to district court in order to vindicate the constitutional rights of Idaho school children and the other beneficiaries of the endowment trusts.”
The Idaho Supreme Court, in a 3-2 ruling today, has granted the state’s motion to dismiss Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s legal challenge to state-owned cabin site rents, which charged that the state Land Board is violating the Idaho Constitution by not securing the maximum long-term return for the beneficiaries of the state’s endowment lands, the largest of which is Idaho’s public schools. The decision, authored by Justice Joel Horton, didn’t dispute Wasden’s contention that the Land Board is violating the Constitution. Instead, it essentially ruled on procedural grounds, saying Wasden could approach the case in a different manner starting at a lower court. Horton wrote that “there is a plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law such that the extraordinary remedy of a writ of prohibition would be improper.” Chief Justice Dan Eismann and Justice Pro Tem Linda Copple Trout concurred in the majority opinion.
Justice Roger Burdick dissented, writing, “The facts in this case are not in dispute. The record clearly demonstrates that the Land Board is exceeding its discretion in leasing the cottage sites for less than market value and failing to obtain the maximum long-term financial return for the beneficiaries, which is a violation of both I.C. § 58-310A and the Idaho Constitution. The majority does not deny this, instead finding that the Attorney General has other plain, speedy and adequate remedies available.” But Burdick said he does not, disputing the majority opinion’s contention that Wasden could get a preliminary injunction and seek a declaratory judgment. All of the state’s cabin site leases expire this month and are up for renewal. Justice Warren Jones concurred in the dissent. You can read the full ruling here.
The owners of a bankrupt firm that once was the largest seller of extended auto warranties in the nation have been barred from doing business in Idaho, under a settlement announced today by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “These individuals got rich by blanketing the country with deceptive mailings, unwanted telephone calls, and high pressure sales tactics, often aimed at senior citizens,” Wasden said. “They made millions selling nearly worthless service contracts, in many cases to people who were covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. This settlement prohibits them from repeating those practices in Idaho.”
Wasden and ten other state attorneys general sued the defunct company and its owners earlier this year, alleging the illegal actions stemming from deceptive junk mail, telemarketing robocalls and misleading TV ads. Click below to read Wasden’s full news release.