Following alleged open meeting violations, Canyon County commissioners to hold additional budget meeting

From the Idaho Press

by ERIN BANKS RUSBY

CALDWELL — The Canyon County Board of Commissioners will consider ratifying earlier decisions from its budget process following allegations of open meetings law violation.

The board of commissioners will hold a public meeting on Thursday, Sept. 7 at 4 p.m. at the Canyon County Commissioners’ meeting room at the courthouse (1115 Albany St., Caldwell) to consider ratifying two budget decisions: the Aug. 17 decision to publish the tentative budget and the Aug. 30 decision to adopt the final budget.

Commissioner Brad Holton made the announcement at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon, reading from a prepared statement. In the statement, the commissioners noted the allegations while also disagreeing that there was any wrongdoing.

“Although we as a board do not agree with the allegations, in order to move forward, the board acknowledges the alleged violations,” Holton said, reading the statement. “With that acknowledgment, we believe that completes the cure for any violation.”

The Sept. 7 meeting is being held “out of an abundance of caution,” the statement said.

The move comes following an unusually contentious public hearing about the final budget in late August. At the hearing, former Canyon County commissioner Keri Smith alleged that the board had violated Idaho’s open meeting law when its commissioners individually communicated with the county’s chief operations officer, outside of public meetings, to revise the budget, as previously reported.

Specifically, Smith took issue with the commissioners noting the hundreds of hours of work they had dedicated to developing the budget between the Aug. 4 presentation of the suggested budget and the Aug. 15 presentation of the tentative budget. Language in a document explaining Idaho’s open meeting law says that public officials are required to hold a public meeting if they are even receiving information about a matter they will be voting on, as previously reported. No public meetings on the budget were held between Aug. 4 and Aug. 15.

Smith told the board at the Aug. 30 meeting that she intended to file a formal complaint against the board.

In the statement shared Tuesday, the commissioners said that the board had had meetings related to the budget on 21 dates, including 54 budget workshops. Each commissioner also had “informal discussions” with the chief operating officer during that process, and what was discussed at those meetings was put on the record for the public to access at either the Aug. 15 or Aug. 17 meeting, the statement said.

“Although it has been alleged that deliberations were conducted at a meeting violative of the open meetings act, no firm or final decision was rendered upon the questions then discussed, so any alleged impropriety of those meetings did not taint the final action taken … at subsequent meetings,” the statement said.

From the Idaho Press

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