IDOG bucks World Series

Draws 100+ in Idaho Falls

By Dean Miller

IDAHO FALLS – Reporters and public officials pored over Idaho’s open meetings and open records law together at an Oct. 27 workshop even as the World Series was under way.

Organizers had booked a single meeting room in the Health Sciences building of the Eastern Idaho Technical College and had to call in janitors to move a curtain wall to open up seats for the overflow crowd.

Workshop sponsor Roger Plothow, publisher of the Post Register, noted that he began working on these issues when he was but an Editor and serving as Idaho Press Club President. At that time, in the late 1990s, the Press Club organized a major revision of Idaho laws to protect the public’s right to see government records and attend government meetings.

Plothow expressed happy surprise at the size of the crowd, which included TV and print reporters, dozens of citizen activists and elected state and local officials.

IDOG’s roadshow writers were tickled to observe Post Register reporter Sven Erik Berg in the front row, taking notes shoulder-to-shoulder with Bonneville County Commissioner David Radford. When those two need to work out a public access issue, IDOG’s training ensures they’ll have a shared vocabulary and tools in common with which to address it.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden reminded participants that his office, which operates as the referee, has observed that both reporters and public officials are wrong about the open meetings, open records act about half the time. Though that would make a great batting average, he said, we can do better. The purpose of the IDOG roadshow is to get people to at least recognize there are standard rules, even if each party reads them slightly differently.

Evaluations from the participants were glowing. The skits, one elected official wrote, were “super,” and the lasting lesson learned: “Assume it’s public unless there’s a specific exemption.” Wrote another: “Great job – better than what I was expecting.” A public employee who attended praised the “pertinent info for my particular job,” and a sewer district board member wrote, “The best thing to do is always have open meetings and only discuss and deliberate there.”

“The info was well covered,” wrote a citizen who attended, while an elected official dubbed it “good preventative medicine.” “We have the tools to maintain our state government’s transparency,” wrote a city attorney. A reporter who attended wrote, “I learned process, order and rights regarding public information.” Wrote another, “I’m a journalist. Now I have a better idea of what I have the right to know. I’ll also be able to differentiate between the truth and getting the run-around.”

Not an IDOG member yet?