Unlike Ada County’s commissioners, who spent thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting to defend themselves from fines over a violation of the Idaho Open Meeting Law, the county commissioners in Teton County have admitted a violation of the law – pointed out by their local newspaper editor – paid their fines and vowed to do better in the future.
The Idaho Attorney General’s office today announced a settlement with the Teton commissioners in a civil lawsuit over the meeting law violations. The settlement, filed Wednesday, is subject to approval by the District Court in Teton County.
Under terms of the settlement, Commissioners Mark Trupp, Jay Calderwood and Roger Hoopes acknowledged that they violated the Open Meeting Law on May 30, 2006, by meeting in executive session without providing meeting and agenda notice and by failing to take written minutes of the executive session, according to the Attorney General’s office. The commissioners have each paid a civil penalty of $75.
“Although there were violations of the Open Meeting Law, the findings of our investigation indicate that they were inadvertent, rather than deliberate,” Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said. “The commissioners should be commended for admitting, and taking responsibility for, their mistakes, rather than condemned for having made them.”
Teton County Prosecuting Attorney Bart Birch referred the matter to the Attorney General after receiving a complaint from Jeannette Boner, Managing Editor of the Teton Valley News.
An investigation by Deputy Attorney General Mitch Toryanski found that Teton County Clerk Nolan Boyle called Bonner on the morning of May 30 to invite a representative of the Teton Valley News to observe the commissioners’ canvass of primary election ballots. Following the canvass, the commissioners met in executive session. The commissioners had not provided advance written notice to the public of that executive session, as required by law. Additionally, the commissioners did not provide for the taking of written minutes. The Idaho Open Meeting Law requires governing bodies to take written minutes of all meetings and make them available for public inspection within a reasonable time after the meeting.