Program focuses on access to information

From the Idaho Press-Tribune

By Vickie Holbrook, Managing Editor

What government meetings are open? When can elected officials close a meeting to the public? What records can you access?

Idaho has open meetings and public records laws, but the people who want to deny access and the people who want access sometimes interpret the laws differently.

And there are those who close meetings only to plead ignorance if they are challenged. Some people suspect that every agency that closes the door has something to hide from the public. That’s an understandable perception, and the faith in the system is further eroded anytime officials lock a door — even when it’s legal — or leave the public standing outside the meeting room because a door is “accidentally stuck” when a session should be open to anyone who wants to attend.

The fact is that as long as there are reasons government officials can lock the door or keep records secret, there is bound to be conflict.

But the Idaho Attorney General’s Office and an organization called Idahoans for Openness in Government and the Idaho Press Club teamed up a year ago to define the rules and answer questions.

The program is for the media, the public and government officials, and will provide answers to questions about the state’s public records and open meetings laws — and it’s promised to be in a no-legalese format. Some easy-to-understand booklets also will be available.

A three-hour session begins at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, at the meeting room in Canyon County Courthouse, 1115 Albany, Caldwell.

A Boise workshop begins at 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, at the Boise Public Library Auditorium, 715 S. Capitol Blvd.

The Idaho Press-Tribune and KBCI Channel 2 are the local hosts for the meeting, and you are invited.

There is no charge, refreshments will be provided and 2.75 continuing legal education credits can be earned.

Please RSVP for the Caldwell workshop with Vickie Holbrook, 465-8110 or vholbrook@idahopress.com, and for the Boise workshop with Elinor Chehey at 343-8018.

Vickie Holbrook can be reached at 465-8110 or vholbrook@idahopress.com.

From the Idaho Press-Tribune

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