Sandpoint bars the public from rail issues meeting

From the Coeur d’Alene Press

City of Sandpoint officials deny violating the state’s open meeting law the same day Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was in town to educate officials and the public on that very law.

The closed meeting was hosted by the city and included its mayor and the mayors of Dover and Ponderay. Bonner County Commission Chairman Cary Kelly, state Sen. Shawn Keough and officials from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality also attended the meeting.

No public notice of the 1 p.m. meeting could be found, although an agenda obtained by The Bonner County Daily Bee indicates that it concerned oil and coal train traffic.

Representatives from the Idaho Conservation League and Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, which is headed by Sandpoint Councilwoman Shannon Williamson, gave presentations to the other officials, according to the agenda.

Although the city posted no notice of the meeting, the county commission had it noted on its weekly calendar.

Sandpoint resident Randy Stolz said he intended on attending the meeting, but was told by Sandpoint Mayor Carrie Logan that it was closed to the public.

“I was hoping to attend and I was bounced,” Stolz said.

The city defended its decision to keep the public from the meeting.

“No actions were taken. It was just an informational meeting trying to clarify and identify risks,” Logan said.

City attorney Scot Campbell, a former deputy state attorney general, was unwilling or unable to cite the section of Idaho Code the city relied upon to prohibit the public’s attendance. Campbell simply said it was not a public meeting because there was only one county commissioner and a council member present.

The topics discussed during the meeting do not appear to meet the criteria for a closed meeting. Those criteria include labor negotiations, personnel matters and pending litigation.

The alleged open meeting law violation occurred the same day Wasden and Idahoans for Openness in Government conducted a workshop in Sandpoint to educate local government officials, journalists and the public on Idaho’s open meeting law.

No Sandpoint city officials attended the workshop.

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