Champ of open government remembered

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  • Gary Ingram is shown here at a restaurant on Lake Coeur d’Alene. The former state legislator and lead author of Idaho’s Open Meeting Law died of cancer on Thursday. He was 84. Photo by DUANE RASMUSSEN

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    Gary Ingram, a former state legislator from Coeur d'Alene, died of cancer on Thursday. Here, Ingram speaks at a Kootenai County Board of Commissioners meeting in 2014. (SHAWN GUST/Press File)

  • Gary Ingram is shown here at a restaurant on Lake Coeur d’Alene. The former state legislator and lead author of Idaho’s Open Meeting Law died of cancer on Thursday. He was 84. Photo by DUANE RASMUSSEN

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    Gary Ingram, a former state legislator from Coeur d'Alene, died of cancer on Thursday. Here, Ingram speaks at a Kootenai County Board of Commissioners meeting in 2014. (SHAWN GUST/Press File)

COEUR d'ALENE — Gary Ingram wrote the book on government transparency in Idaho.

Ingram, the driving force behind Idaho's Open Meeting Law who served as a Republican in the House from 1973 to 1980, died of cancer on Thursday, one day after turning 84.

"He was like a father figure to me," said fellow Republican and friend Duane Rasmussen. "He was always someone I could call to get advice from. You could always easily walk up to him and strike up a conversation."

Rasmussen said Ingram did his homework when it came to topics before groups he was involved with, including the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee and North Idaho Pachyderm Club.

Ingram, who lived in Coeur d'Alene, was a gentleman, Rasmussen said.

"He always had a sparkle in his eyes and zest for life," he said.

Brent Regan, KCRCC chairman, called Ingram a "true Republican."

"Gary was a valued member of the Republican Central Committee where his opinions and advice were sought and respected," Regan wrote in a statement.

Ingram's interest in holding elected officials accountable on spending was evident even in recent months. He commented on a story in The Press about Kootenai County's proposed tax increase prior to the budget public hearing in August.

"Spend less, learn to say no to those so-called demands and pay attention to the property taxpayers," he wrote on his Facebook page.

Ingram was the lead author of the Open Meeting Law that increased transparency at public meetings. In 2009 he earned the Max Dalton Open Government Award sponsored by the Idaho Newspaper Foundation.

Throughout his service at the Legislature, Ingram advanced the cause of open government. An amendment he sponsored in 1978 clarified conditions under which public agencies could confer with their legal staff in executive session.

Transparency remained a focus of Ingram's long after his legislative days, particularly as his name was associated with efforts to turn back proposals to weaken the law.

Hayden Lake's Bob Brooke, president of the North Idaho Pachyderm Club, said he respected Ingram's honesty and conservative philosophy.

"He was not in politics for himself," Brooke said. "He was a very ethical person, and he expected government to act that way. Republicans believe in small government, and he fit right in there politically."

Ingram, who grew up in Minnesota before moving to Coeur d'Alene in 1961, was an avid fisherman and had an interest in the environment.

"We would go out to the chain lakes and he was concerned about the tundra swans that would die (due to digestive issues related to the mining waste)," Rasmussen said.

Brooke said Ingram earned the respect of many.

"It's a loss not only to his family and close friends, but it's a loss to Idaho," he said.

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