Idaho County panel closes doors for roadless plan

Commission appears to have violated state’s open meetings laws by move

From the Lewiston Tribune

By Jodi Walker
Lewiston Morning Tribune
Nov. 22, 2005

GRANGEVILLE — Two Idaho County commissioners went behind closed doors for a conference call regarding the Forest Service’s roadless plan Monday over the objection of the third.

“It was basically a work session,” said Commissioner Jim Rehder Monday evening.

Executive sessions, or sessions where government bodies are allowed to conduct business without the public or press present, are allowed only for personnel issues or for pending litigation in Idaho.

The conference call was with the Idaho Association of Counties and about a dozen counties affected by the roadless document, according to Chairman Randy Doman.

“I didn’t want to go into executive session,” Doman said.

In a morning discussion of the issue, Doman asked the commission’s legal counsel about an executive session. When Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Dennis Albers was leery about the call fitting the definition of an executive session, Doman said he might just recess
the meeting to take the call, along with Rehder.

The two serve on the Idaho County’s roadless committee.

“I would rather have just gone off somewhere and taken the call,” Doman said Monday evening. Since the county is served by three commissioners, two commissioners made a quorum for the closed-door call, a move prohibited by state open meeting laws.

Rehder said Monday night the doors were not closed out of secrecy but so the commissioners could better listen without interruption. When asked if she could stay for the call, Commissioner Alice Mattson was told only those on the committee were invited to participate.

“If I don’t have to be here for roadless, I probably don’t need to be here for the rest of this,” she said angrily waving the day’s agenda.

The roadless plan is a draft of how the state of Idaho and its counties will manage Idaho’s roadless areas. Earlier this year the Bush administration gave state governors with federal roadless areas the ability to petition the secretary of agriculture to change the way the areas are managed.

Public meetings have drawn about 140 people in the last couple of weeks in Idaho and Clearwater counties. The goal of the plan is to include the public in the process. The commissioners closed the door citing a portion of Idaho Code that allows executive session for consideration of “preliminary negotiations involving matters of trade
or commerce in which the governing body is in competition with governing bodies in other states or nations.”

Mattson voted against the executive session but did remain in the room during the phone call. She said she contacted the Idaho Association of Counties during the lunch break and was told the call could be held in public.

Doman said the meeting was legally closed because of the negotiations of how to use federal, state and county money to pay for the roadless comment compilation.

“There were no decisions of the county. We were just listening and giving input,” Doman said.

— Walker may be contacted at c.

From the Lewiston Tribune

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