Wasden focuses on open meeting law

From the Lewiston Tribune

Idaho attorney general in town
By David Cole
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said the Legislature needs to act during its next session to address ambiguities in the state’s open meeting law that can make enforcement difficult.

“We need to have a serious discussion with the interested parties,” Wasden said Monday at the Lewiston Tribune. Members of the media need to contribute to the discussion, he said, along with those governed by the law.

“We believe that legislation is necessary to resolve some of these issues,” said Wasden, who enforces Idaho’s open meeting law for state government. His office also handles cases from local government referred to it by county prosecutors.

The attorney general said in February, his office’s investigation into an open meeting law complaint against the State Board of Education revealed it may have committed a “non-knowing violation.” But because the investigation didn’t find a “knowing violation,” no fine was imposed under the law.

That investigation highlighted how difficult enforcement can be, especially when proving a violation has occurred is not enough. It must be taken a step further, proving those violating the law were aware – at the time of the violation – it was wrong.

“Without some clarification from the Legislature the law is virtually unenforceable,” Wasden’s spokesman Bob Cooper said. “You have to prove knowingness. It’s an almost impossible burden for a prosecutor to prove.”

During his meeting at the Tribune, Wasden said he supports plans for a University of Idaho Law School branch campus in Boise. Wasden is a 1985 graduate of the law school in Moscow.

Major law firms are in Boise, along with internship opportunities. There is also a concentration of government.

“It’s really market-driven,” Wasden said. “There’s a demand in Boise. If you don’t recognize that you’re going to get run over.”

Also, Wasden, as the National Association of Attorneys General president, said he will host an energy issues conference May 5-7 in Coeur d’Alene.

Attorneys general across the country must be ready to provide advice on energy issues to governors, legislators and state agencies, Wasden said. He plans to bring representatives of industry, government and science together for the meeting.

It is intended to provide a forum to address every part of the energy field, including reliability, resource use, emissions, sustainability and environmental impact.

“We need to have a discussion of the reality, instead of the rhetoric,” Wasden said.

Cole may be contacted at dcole@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2278.

From the Lewiston Tribune

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