Land Board to fix Open Meetings Law violation, Labrador motion didn’t comply

From the Idaho Press

by LAURA GUIDO 

The Idaho State Board of Commissioners announced it would be holding a special meeting Friday to rectify an Open Meetings Law violation.

The violation was made during its Aug. 15 meeting in which board member Attorney General Raúl Labrador made a motion for an executive session but did not cite the exemption under the law that justified the closed-door meeting. The exemption was cited in the agenda, but Idaho Code requires that it be included in the motion.

The violation was flagged by Idaho Statesman Opinion Editor Scott McIntosh on behalf of the Idaho Press Club’s First Amendment Committee. He wrote to Land Board members in an Aug. 29 email to highlight the violation and asked that the board cure the violation.

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Board member Secretary of State Phil McGrane, who had seconded the motion at the Aug. 15 meeting, responded and said he would “work with the board both to remedy the situation and ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

McGrane told the Idaho Press that the Friday special meeting will note the violation and what the motion should have said.

Beth Cahill, communication director for the attorney general’s office, said in an emailed statement that there is “no question of public transparency” in the Aug. 15 meeting because the agenda and minutes identified the correct citation of code.

“The Land Board is doing the right thing in this matter,” Cahill wrote. “A board or commission should quickly cure a violation in open meetings laws. Technical omissions happen from time to time, and when they occur government boards should work to remedy it.”

The motion had been unanimously approved by the other board members who were present: Gov. Brad Little and Superintendent of Public Education Debbie Critchfield. State Controller Brandon Woolf is also a member but had left the meeting prior to the motion being made.

Toward the end of the meeting, Labrador said, “We have an executive session. My attorney needs to talk to the board members real quick.”

Little responded that a motion was required as well as a roll-call vote.

Labrador said, “So, motion to go into executive session.”

The section of Idaho Code that allows for narrow exemptions to the Open Meetings Law states, “The motion to go into executive session shall identify the specific subsections of this section that authorize the executive session.”

The agenda cited Idaho Code and wrote that the session was “to communicate with legal counsel for the public agency to discuss the legal ramifications of and legal options for pending litigation, or controversies not yet being litigated but imminently likely to be litigated.”

Labrador is currently litigating an alleged Open Meetings Law violation against the State Board of Education, arguing it improperly held an executive session during negotiations in the University of Idaho’s bid to purchase the University of Phoenix.

A judge recently ruled that Labrador and two other employees in his office could not pursue this litigation against the board, because of information they may have obtained in a privileged phone call, but that other attorneys in the office may continue in the case.

Labrador, in response to the ruling, said in an Aug. 28 statement that the judge “upheld the right of my office to hold state agencies accountable for Open Meetings Law violations.”

“I am very pleased with the Court’s decision because it ensures that I can do my job and represent the people of Idaho,” Labrador wrote. “Idaho law makes the Attorney General the sole enforcer of the Open Meetings Law against state agencies like the Idaho State Board of Education, and the Court agreed.”

The Land Board special meeting will be held 9 a.m. Friday.

From the Idaho Press

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