Kempthorne holds on to his records

From the Idaho Statesman

Two years after he left office, the ex-governor still hasn’t sent his files to Idaho’s archives, as state law requires.

Former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s records haven’t been sent to the state’s archives.

Edition Date: 05/06/08

Two years ago, the Idaho Attorney General’s office told Dirk Kempthorne to give his gubernatorial records to the Idaho State Historical Society – like every governor before him.

Kempthorne never complied.

Unbeknownst to the Historical Society, the dozens of boxes of documents from Kempthorne’s 7 years in office were locked away in the Department of Administration – access to the public given only with Kempthorne’s approval.

“They should be here,” said Linda Morton-Keithley, the administrator of public archives and research library at the State Historical Society.


Kempthorne left office in May 2006 before the end of his second term, when President George W. Bush tapped him to become secretary of the Interior.

The quick transition to Washington, D.C., and Kempthorne’s busy schedule has made it difficult to properly vet the documents and cede control to the state, according to Kempthorne’s lawyer Michael Bogert, who called after the Statesman requested to speak to Kempthorne. Bogert, who also represented then-Gov. Kempthorne, said Kempthorne has given the state “jurisdiction” over the documents but admitted that any public records request has to be approved by the former governor.

“Once the governor leaves office, as with any governor, there are documents that might meet exemptions (from the public records law),” he said.

Bogert added that he has received no public records requests for Kempthorne’s gubernatorial papers.

That could be because the scholars and historians who normally ask for such records don’t know where to look.

Morton-Keithley said the society has received numerous requests to view the records since Kempthorne left office. They’ve had to turn every one down because they didn’t have the documents and thought Kempthorne was still holding onto them.

Bogert said the Historical Society has not requested Kempthorne’s papers, though Bogert was part of a public spat with the society over ownership of the records in 2006, which spilled onto newspaper pages.

Morton-Keithley said the society has requested the records.


By law, the Historical Society oversees records generated during a governor’s term of office and those are considered state property. The society does loan them to institutions, such as Boise State University and the University of Idaho. If you want Kempthorne’s records, though, you have to ask his permission.

The records of every other Idaho governor are available to the public and are used by academics, lawyers, reporters and curious citizens, Morton-Keithley said.

“We have a pretty broad audience,” she said.

Idaho statute empowers the State Historical Society to “require that any state, county, or city, or any public official, deposit official books, records, documents, or original papers, not in current use, which are of definite historical importance, in the society for preservation…”

The Attorney General’s Office agrees.

Documents from a governor’s time in office, with a few exceptions, are public record and should go to the Historical Society, said Deputy Attorney General Bill von Tagen.

“We made it clear … that they had to go to the Historical Society,” he said.


The brief fight over Kempthorne’s records started in spring 2006.

It was then that Kempthorne tried to give his gubernatorial records directly to the University of Idaho and have them sealed for 25 years. He backed off when the Idaho Attorney General’s Office told him such a move would be illegal. He has sealed the records from his one term in the U.S. Senate for 25 years, as allowed by federal law.

After the Attorney General’s opinion, however, Kempthorne’s lawyer said the records would be turned over to the state.

The Historical Society must make a formal request for the Attorney General’s Office to sue to recover the records, von Tagen said. There does not appear to be a deadline in statute for turning over gubernatorial documents.

The Historical Society has no plans to sue for the documents at the moment, said Executive Director Janet Gallimore, although she expressed surprise when told by a Statesman reporter that the records were held by the Department of Administration. Gallimore said she plans to talk to Department of Administration officials.

“I don’t know how that would have happened without us knowing about it,” she said.


Housing records at a university is no problem, given that the Historical Society retains ownership and public access is preserved, Morton-Keithley said.

“The issue isn’t as much where they go … as it is that we know where they are,” she said.

Right now any member of the public can view any gubernatorial record, except those exempted by state statute from the public records law, Morton-Keithley. No former governor, save Kempthorne, has any say over access, she said.

The University of Idaho has not heard from Kempthorne’s camp since shortly after he left office, said Lynn Baird, the university’s dean of library services. Baird said the university is still interested in adding Kempthorne’s records to their collection, which includes the records of Govs. C.A. Bottolfsen, Chase Clark., and Ben Ross. It also has Kempthorne’s Senate records.

“We would be delighted to have them,” she said.

Kempthorne’s actions are in stark contrast to his replacement, former Gov. Jim Risch, who turned the documents over nearly immediately after leaving office, said Morton-Keithley.

Risch, who is now lieutenant governor, said he had no issue with turning over the records from his seven months in office.

“I think transparency in government is critical,” he said. “No. 1, if you don’t have transparency, everyone assumes you’re trying to cover something up. … On top of it, people need to know what their government is doing.”

Heath Druzin: 373-6617

From the Idaho Statesman

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