Moscow’s historic, wood-paneled City Council chambers was the scene of some hilarity last night, as City Councilman Walter Steed, left, played the part of a lucky reporter overhearing his local county commissioners illegally conducting public business over breakfast at a local café – while Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson, second from right, played the county commission chairman, throwing in some zingers at Steed while he was at it. The skit was part of a workshop on Idaho’s open meeting and public records laws that drew nearly 30 people last night; additional sessions are set tonight in Coeur d’Alene and Thursday afternoon in Sandpoint.
In the skit, the fictional county commissioners ended up with $500 apiece fines for knowingly violating the Idaho Open meeting Law. “An important note with the penalties,” Deputy Idaho Attorney General Brian Kane told the crowd, “Those are to you as a person, meaning that your government entity doesn’t pick up the tab for you violating the open meeting law.”
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was the lead presenter at the workshop, sponsored by Idahoans for Openness in Government and co-sponsored by the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Wasden said all sides need to understand what the rules are. Lee Rozen, Daily News managing editor, said, “These laws are often misunderstood in the details and in the intent – either by the public, by the press, by government staff and by elected officials.” That’s why all those groups are invited to the IDOG sessions.
There’s more info here about IDOG and the workshops, which Wasden and the group have been holding around the state since 2004; the Moscow session was the 31st.