State Government

Costly Closed Meetings Considered

Illegal closed meetings could be a bit more costly for local Idaho officials if proposed amendments in the OPEN MEETING LAW are enacted by the legislature.

House Bill 620 would raise the fine for violation from $150 to $500 for a first offense and top out at $1,000 for a second offense. Representative Russ Matthews is pushing the bill in the wake of the Ada County commishes current court battle with the Attorney General’s office.

The Ada Commishes have run up a legal tab of more than $17,000 in public money defending themselves against charges they held an illegal closed meeting last June. They claim the meeting with Boise councilor Vern Bisterfeldt was over impending litigation. Bisterfeldt and the AG say otherwise and the matter is still pending in court.

Matthews’ bill would also clarify the definition of “pending litigation” as litigation commenced by the governing body or WRITTEN notice from another party either threatening a lawsuit or notice that one has been filed.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Not enough teeth yet in this law. Its a good start.

    Ed note–We just hit the highlights of the changes, but there is a little more if you want to track down HB 620 on the legislative site.

  2. There are certain “infractions” for which it is difficult to “unring the bell” so to speak. An attorney can likely attach some legal tenet to it, but doing the people’s business behind closed doors seems to be one of them. Once the discussion has been had it’s a little like ex parte conversation….it’s really hard to just disregard. Perhaps a criminal charge punishable by 6 months in jail and a hefty fine would be enough to deter this practice. However, as long as one can avail him/herself of legal defense at the taxpayers’ expense, one needn’t be too worried about it at all.

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