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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho judge orders records disclosed in trade secrets case

BOISE – An Idaho judge has ordered a Florida dental services contractor to disclose nearly 100 pages from its successful bid for an Idaho Medicaid contract that the company had claimed was exempt from public disclosure as trade secrets.

The order came in a lawsuit filed by Blue Cross, which had the state contract but lost out to Florida-based MCNA Dental.

Blue Cross contended the Florida firm claimed much of its bid consisted of trade secrets – preventing Blue Cross from reviewing it to decide whether to challenge the bid award.

Judge Samuel Hoagland wrote, “The court finds that much of MCNA’s redacted information was previously disclosed publicly and was freely available on its own website, on various other state websites, and by simple Google searches.” Information that has been publicly disclosed, he wrote, “cannot now be claimed as a trade secret.”

Under Idaho law, “All public records are open unless expressly provided otherwise by statute,” the judge wrote.

In his 33-page decision, the judge meticulously went through individual page numbers from the bid and determined whether the information redacted was appropriate. He found that roughly 250 pages, plus eight attachments, were appropriately redacted from the MCNA bid. But nearly 100 other pages weren’t, he ruled.

MCNA argued in court that Blue Cross was just after its trade secrets for competitive reasons, and as the third-place finisher in the bid process, likely couldn’t successfully challenge the bid. The contract award, which was supposed to take effect Sept. 2, was put on hold by the lawsuit; Blue Cross and the state agreed to extend their existing contract until it was resolved.

Blue Cross also challenged redactions by the second-place bidder, Liberty Dental Plan of Nevada, but the judge ruled that those were appropriate under the Idaho Public Records Act.