Saturday, April 01, 2023

In the interest of transparency

Staff Writer | May 21, 2021 1:00 AM

An offer to Kootenai County’s two political central committees to broadcast meetings with county livestream services is still on the table, with the board of commissioners waiting for a response.

Initially discussed in the commissioners' May 3 meeting, Commissioner Bill Brooks proposed reaching out to the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee and the Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee in the interest of "transparency and public involvement."

"Since we started doing livestream in January, a lot of people have been able to attend and be part of the transparency that is there for anyone in the county," Brooks said during the meeting. "If they meet here, we're not going to chase them around with cameras."

As of Thursday, Commissioner Chris Fillios said he had not received a formal response from either party. However, KCRCC Chairman Brent Regan had emailed the commissioner a series of questions to address before proposing the idea before the committee.

The comments, sent by Regan last Friday, included queries about the potential cost to the taxpayer, concerns about a possible "hot mic" situation, scheduling of special meetings, and whether commissioners would extend the offer to all private organizations. In the email, Regan said that none of the "what if scenarios" he described were intended to be a poor reflection on the commissioners, but part of his responsibility as chairman to "protect and inform (the) committeemen of possible risks."

"We live in an age where calls for 'transparency' can simply be a weapon used by those who wish to bully and intimidate," Regan's email states. "Where 'doxing' by woke social justice Marxists can lead to emotional, economic and even physical harm."

KCRCC meetings are frequently held in the Kootenai County Administration Building on Government Way, with members of the public free to attend any general meeting as a guest. However, Regan said that there are instances where public attendance is not recommended.

"Our committee is already grateful for the use of the facility and endeavor to leave it clean and well ordered when we are done," the email said. "We do not wish to exceed our welcome."

Kootenai County Democrats Chairman Evan Koch said the committee was pleased to receive the commissioners' offer, deeming it a symbol of the "beginning of the end of this long pandemic." Koch said the group has not formally considered the proposal yet but will at the next meeting.

"Democrats who have weighed in on this are basically in agreement," he said. "We are excited to meet in person, but we insist on respecting and meeting the needs of those Democrats who are not willing to attend large indoor gatherings."

Though it is still undecided, Koch anticipates that the committee will accept the county's offer for livestream and meeting services. He had no concerns about the proposal and said the group has met in the Kootenai County Administration Building in the past without a problem.

"With respect to Commissioner Brooks' comments, Democrats do not fear transparency, and we are in favor of increasing public involvement," Koch said. "We recognize that some of our business must be conducted confidentially, and for that, we go into executive session."

Fillios said the county does not extend the same offer to all private organizations but felt that since the KCRCC and KCDCC have constituents, it is reasonable to believe the services would be beneficial.

"We are simply trying to accommodate the interests of the community so that more people can attend," Fillios said. "We should be able to accommodate both central committees."

At the time of publication Regan had not responded to multiple Press inquiries for additional comment.


Evan Koch

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