Thursday, June 13, 2024

EDITORIAL: Open Meetings violator should know better

| September 6, 2023 1:00 AM

The state’s most powerful board showed last week why legal counsel oversight is so important during public meetings.

The Idaho Land Board committed a violation of Open Meetings statute and then had to reassemble Friday to fix the violation. The Land Board is comprised of the governor, the secretary of state, the state controller, the superintendent of public instruction and the attorney gen —

Oh. Right.

The attorney general.

Not only was Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador present for the Land Board meeting, he’s the one who committed the Open Meetings violation. The illegal act was flagged by Idaho Statesman Opinion Editor Scott McIntosh on behalf of the Idaho Press Club’s First Amendment Committee.

In Labrador’s view, the boo-boo was merely a technical omission. He had made a motion for the board to adjourn to executive session but, counter to Idaho law, did not cite the statute that specifically covers why the behind-the-doors huddle might have been necessary.

The law is there for a reason: To try to ensure that when officials are conducting the public’s business, they’re as transparent as possible.

Yes, it’s OK to laugh out loud at that last sentence, considering the open meeting violations that have been flagged in North Idaho, particularly with the North Idaho College’s board of trustees and new Community Library Network board majority.

But when the state’s top legal beagle looks more like a watchdog taking a nap, that’s cause for concern. Scarier still is if Labrador doesn’t know the law he’s sworn to uphold.

The attorney general is engaged in a bitter legal fight with the Idaho State Board of Education over University of Idaho’s potential purchase of University of Phoenix. The board’s approval of the deal is being challenged by Labrador based on an alleged Open Meetings violation.

A judge has ruled that Labrador and two of his staff can’t participate in the lawsuit, though other members of his office may. The AG quickly twisted that ruling into a statement that now is biting him where the Open Meetings light don’t shine.

“Idaho law makes the Attorney General the sole enforcer of the Open Meetings Law against state agencies like the Idaho State Board of Education,” Labrador said in a statement, “and the Court agreed.”

The Court of Public Opinion rules against Mr. Labrador's hypocritical stance, suing a state board for allegedly violating the law he clearly violated.

It further advises Mr. Labrador to attend one of the open meeting/public record workshops being put on this fall by former Deputy AG Brian Kane and reporter Betsy Russell. The sole enforcer might learn something important.