Learning about open records, meetings

May 27, 2010

MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho — It was a rainy spring evening in Mountain Home, but that didn’t stop a near-capacity crowd of about 50 from filling the Mountain Home Senior Center for a seminar on Idaho’s open meetings and public records laws, complete with Attorney General Lawrence Wasden himself, interactive skits involving lots of audience members, and refreshments afterward.

Elmore County Commissioner Connie Cruser welcomed the crowd, and Wasden, Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane and IDOG President Betsy Russell led the presentation, with plenty of help from audience members who got a chance to portray snoopy reporters, recalcitrant public officials, and others doing things the right way – and the wrong way – under the state’s key openness in government laws.

The session earned top marks from attendees in written evaluations.

“Great overview – where to find answers, who to call,” wrote one elected official who attended; she added, “I appreciated the hands-on, personal approach to this class.”

Bob Cooper of the Idaho Attorney General’s office handled set-up, while the senior center folks had the cookies and punch ready. A banner hung along the wall, stating the preface to Idaho’s Open Meeting Law: “FORMATION OF PUBLIC POLICY AT OPEN MEETINGS. The people of the state of Idaho in creating the instruments of government that serve them, do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies so created. Therefore, the Legislature finds and declares that it is the policy of this state that the formation of public policy is public business and shall not be conducted in secret.”

Every participant in Mountain Home said he or she learned something that could be put to use right away. That included a public official who said he’d “reinforce policy concerning open meeting requirements;” a board clerk listed “posting of notice and agenda;” a citizen wrote “how to interact with government agencies;” and a county employee wrote “correct place to post agendas.”

“I’m more clear about the open meeting laws,” wrote a city zoning administrator. A political candidate gained understanding of the open meeting law and would recommend the seminar to others.

An elected official wrote that his takeaway was this: “Watch what you do very carefully – follow the laws.”

The Mountain Home session was the 23rd such seminar held by IDOG and the Idaho Attorney General since 2004.

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