AMMON — In response to a news conference held by Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, the Idaho Press Club, and the Idaho Attorney General’s Office issued the following statements:
Click here to read about the news conference or listen to the video above.
Idaho Attorney General’s Office
“The Office of the Attorney General offered its final legal counsel on this matter to the lieutenant governor on June 7, 2021. Following that communication, the lieutenant governor made an independent decision to seek outside representation. Then – approximately six weeks after our final counsel – the Idaho Press Club filed its lawsuit.
“Attorney client privilege precludes us from discussing the specifics of our counsel at this point. However, the lawsuit, the lieutenant governor’s loss in court and the subsequent financial burden Idaho taxpayers now face all resulted from independent decisions made by the lieutenant governor in consultation with her chosen attorney after June 7.
“This entire matter is an excellent demonstration of why government should seek legal counsel that it needs to hear instead of what it wants to hear.”
Idaho Press Club
The judge made it very clear why we won our public records lawsuit against Lt. Gov. McGeachin: She unlawfully refused to release public records requested by four different reporters, for months on end. “The disclosure of public records is prescribed by law,” 4th District Judge Steven Hippler wrote in his Aug. 26 decision in the case, “and fear mongering has no place in the calculus.”
“If public officials were required to disclose public records only to those, including media, they believe will support the government’s actions, we will have shed the principles of our democracy and evolved into an autocratic state where criticism of public officials is not permitted,” Hippler wrote.
The judge also imposed a $750 civil fine for “bad faith” violations of the Idaho Public Records Act against McGeachin and ordered her to pay the Press Club’s attorney fees and costs, but she still didn’t release the records as ordered by the judge. It was only after the Press Club filed a motion to have her held in contempt of court until she released the records that, the very next day, she finally did so, on Sept. 30.
The Press Club and McGeachin, in consultation with our attorneys, then filed a joint motion to drop the contempt motion, in exchange for McGeachin’s release of all the records and payment of fees and costs. The Press Club requested fees and costs only through Aug. 26, not for the remaining month-plus that the case stretched on. The court approved the order this week, and ordered McGeachin to pay $28,973.84 in fees and costs, plus the civil penalty of $750. She and her attorneys agreed to this.
On Sept. 8, McGeachin submitted a supplemental budget request for “$50,000 in supplemental funding to pay for legal bills that cannot be covered by the Lt. Governor’s Office current budget without reducing staff hours and constituent services,” directly citing this case.
No fees, costs or fines would have been incurred had the lieutenant governor simply released the records when requested, as the law requires.
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