Idaho Supreme Court will decide Bujak documents case

From the Idaho Statesman

If Bob Henry prevails on appeal in his public records lawsuit against Canyon County, the result could end up helping the county in a separate Bujak-related legal struggle.

That’s because the trustee in former county prosecutor John Bujak’s bankruptcy case is suing the county for nearly $1 million based on the presumption that Bujak’s contract to use county resources to prosecute Nampa misdemeanor cases was his private property. Trustee Jeremy Gugino wants proceeds from the contract to be divided among Bujak’s many creditors as part of the Chapter 7 proceedings. The county is one of those creditors, claiming Bujak still owes it about $300,000.

That presumption is supported by a district judge ruling in Henry’s public records lawsuit last year, but Henry now hopes that the state’s highest court will determine that ruling was in error.

If the Nampa contract is declared public record, that would bolster the county’s argument that the money it has collected from the contract is rightfully the county’s and not part of Bujak’s assets for distribution, Henry said.

Trustee Gugino could not be reached for comment Friday. His case against Canyon County is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court Dec. 21.

At Friday’s hearing, the Idaho Supreme Court didn’t indicate how long it might take to reach a decision in the appeal. But Henry said he was heartened by some of the justice’s questions and statements that seemed to echo his belief that Canyon County commissioners were wrong to support Bujak’s contention that the nearly $600,000 contract was private and appropriately deposited into his private account, with the expectation that the lion’s share of the money would end up in county hands. But Bujak resigned Sept. 30, 2010, after he couldn’t turn over the approximately $300,000 commissioners said he still owed from the contract. County commissioners have said they relied on their then-prosecutor to be true to his word, but he fraudulently used the Nampa money for his personal expenses. He denies he owes the county any money.

Justice Jim Jones commented on the “loosey-goosey nature of this arrangement, where you just kind of hand the money over and there’s not going to be any accounting.”

And Justice Warren Jones voiced the opinion Henry hopes the court will reflect in its opinion: “To me, it’s reasonably clear these are public records. They were public records then, they’re public records now.”

The county’s legal team contends Henry’s appeal in his public records case is moot, because once the county gained access to Bujak’s financial records through the bankruptcy proceeding, it provided them to Henry.

“We don’t know why we’re here,” Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Carl Erickson told the justices. “Because we’ve turned over everything, there is nothing else that we could produce.”

After Bujak resigned, the county made the Nampa contract and its financial records public, Erickson said. But despite repeated questioning from the justices, he stopped short of saying county officials now believe the contract should have been treated as a public agreement all along.

From the Idaho Statesman

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