One fun open meeting - Coeur d'Alene Press: Editorial

One fun open meeting

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Posted: Friday, December 9, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 11:35 am, Fri Nov 16, 2012.

Some of the public officials who would have benefited most from Tuesday's workshop on Idaho open meeting and public records laws were conspicuously absent. But today we won't dwell on that.

In the crowd of more than 90 folks who did attend, many layers of local government were well represented. Our county prosecutor, Barry McHugh, was there. So was Kootenai County Commissioner Todd Tondee. Hazel Bauman, head of Coeur d'Alene School District, was there. So was Sid Armstrong, director of business services for the Post Falls School District. The list included a great mix of local officials and concerned citizens - just what Attorney General Lawrence Wasden hoped for.

Not only was the three-hour event extremely informative, but it was fun, too. Under the leadership of Betsy Russell, a reporter for the Spokesman-Review who also serves as president of Idahoans for Openness in Government, the program features interactive skits involving audience members. Tuesday marked the program's 21st appearance around the state. Russell and Wasden have headed up every single one.

Most of the information presented at the workshop is available online at http://www.ag.idaho.gov/publications/manuals.html. But if there was one key point to take away from the entire event, we think it would be this one, from Attorney General Wasden and Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane: Public officials will actually be helping themselves and their offices, not just the public they serve, by posting their public records promptly online and conducting as much of their business as possible in the open.

We learned that a recent change in state law guarantees any citizen free access to public records that require up to two hours of staff time to present, or 100 free pages to photocopy. After that 100-copy level, Kane suggested 5 cents per additional copy would probably be a reasonable amount to charge. But why bother? As Wasden and Kane recommend, posting public records promptly online essentially gets officials out of the business of handling increasing loads of public record requests and allows them to focus on their actual jobs.

Kane was quite emphatic in saying that 99 percent of the public officials he works with want to comply with the law and operate as transparently as possible. Unfortunately, we have not found that to be the case. That's why the Russell-Wasden workshop is so important. The more public officials and citizens learn about the law, the more seamlessly important information can be shared.

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5 comments:

  • Jill Heine posted at 10:51 am on Sun, Dec 11, 2011.

    Jill Heine Posts: 408

    This meeting was originally reported in the Press as a Monday 6 PM event.
    Most of the violations of Open Meetings Laws occurred in Kootenai County, notably with LCDC.
    Why reschedule the event to conflict with area council meetings?

    Bottom Line: Power Brokers Believe They Don't Have To Listen Or Comply.
    When you're dealing and control the shuffle...there is no need for dissenting public input.

     
  • DeNiles posted at 7:00 am on Sat, Dec 10, 2011.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    Well then Mike, what is the meaning of the 1st line of the editorial? Which officials should have attended that did not have other obligations? Rather than sling out an anonymous indictment of irresponsibility just lay it one the line.

    Insofar as Bloem is concerned there are regular council meetings and not many public meetings on 'open meeting' laws. She could have made some attempt to have some level of presence just to demonstrate her respect for the electorate and the importance of these particular rules. If history serves us honestly the only importance she recognizes to open meeting laws is how to avoid them. As for respecting the electorate well she does respect some small portion of it.

     
  • stebbijo posted at 10:12 am on Fri, Dec 9, 2011.

    stebbijo Posts: 49

    I enjoyed it, however, I think an afternoon would be a nice time slot. It did last longer than expected, and I had to get up too early. I wrote a blog post on it, but hit apply instead of save, so I lost it all. It happens. ) -:

    I was surprised to see so many folks in government show up - pretty much the entire crowd, but a few of us lone citizens, like myself were there.

    I am especially interested in judicial committees and how they really are not that transparent at all and I would like to see more transparency when it comes to their meetings and minutes. Brian Kane appeased me with an answer to my question about making those committees subject to the OML.I think I will write something down the road, like The Super Secret Legislative Review Team. (a judicial committee composed of all judges, that no one really knows what they do). That’s a spin, of course off of the Super Secret Gopher Budget story, Lawrence Wasden told us about - not to mention,

    “If it waddles, swims, and quacks like a duck,and the Legislature thinks it is a dog, then it is a dog,” Brian Kane remarked.

    I shook hands with the AG himself and I talked briefly with Mike Patrick and Betsy Russell. I, seriously, obtained more information than I could possibly digest. I need a replay.

    I think I remember Brian Kane telling us that personal records could be public records if you conduct governmental business or communication. He cited 9-338, but I can’t find it - however, the definition of “public record” possibly implies the same. I am sure he said the word “loophole” sometime during the presentation.

    The skits were entertaining, Todd Tondee and Barry McHugh were a hit with their “twerp” scene.

    The “Cure” was interesting, meaning if there is a mistake or violation in the OML process, it gives 14 days to fix it. If the violation is still not recognized, it travels into a menagerie of citizen enforcement action, a referal to the prosecuter (lawsuit) or no further further action necessary (no violation found).

    All and all, it was very nice - it’s not everyday, you can inform the Editor of a newspaper something he does not know about himself. I am not telling, you will have to ask Mike Patrick. ;-)

     
  • posted at 9:37 am on Fri, Dec 9, 2011.

    Posts:

    DeNiles, Mayor Bloem was not there because there was a Coeur d'Alene City Council meeting at the same time as the workshop. Several communities had their council meetings that night, and we're going to try to avoid scheduling the next workshop on a Tuesday night because so many public officials could not be there. However, a number of others chose not to be there. If anyone from LCDC was in the crowd, he or she did not register as an LCDC representative.

     
  • DeNiles posted at 8:01 am on Fri, Dec 9, 2011.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    Was our Mayor there (you remember, the one we're not supposed to have malice towards)? How about members of the LCDC (who have their own PR firm in charge of lipstick application), was Berns, et al in attendance?

     
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