ISU open meeting conflict escalates

From the Idaho State Journal

The Idaho Freedom Foundation has sent a letter to the Idaho attorney general asking him to take enforcement action against Idaho State University for an alleged violation of the state’s open meeting law.

In the letter, Idaho Freedom Foundation Executive Director Wayne Hoffman tells Attorney General Lawrence Wasden he is not asking him to extract civil penalties. He says is he is merely hopeful that through the state’s action, “government transparency and openness will be restored at ISU.”

ISU officials could not be reached Sunday evening to comment on the letter, which stems from a May 12 meeting of the university’s parking advisory committee, which met in closed session and denied admittance to members of the media.

The meeting in the Oboler Library included faculty members who discussed major changes to the university’s parking policy. The parking board acts as an advisory group that advises the administration on parking fees and parking violation regulations. ISU officials believe the parking board is not subject to Idaho’s open meeting law since the board is not a governing body.

“The university holds the unfortunate position that it is prudent and proper to shut students, parents, taxpayers, faculty and the media out of meetings,” Hoffman states in his letter. “We ask that you insist that the university abide by the letter and spirit of the law.”

Immediately following the May 12 meeting, Hoffman wrote a letter to ISU asking the university to restore openness and transparency to the university’s public interactions.

The university’s attorney responded that the parking board is an internal university committee not created by statute, ordinance or legislative act and should therefore be exempt from requirements of the Idaho Open Meetings Act.

“It is not practical to expect that every internal committee adhere to these requirements, and perhaps for that reason, the act does not require them to do so,” ISU attorney Brad Hall wrote in response to the prior complaint from Hoffman.

The university’s legal counsel argued that the parking board is not subject to the open meeting law because the Idaho State Board of Education serves as ISU’s governing board. Hoffman claims that view is a misapplication of Idaho code and it does not absolve the university from the requirements of the law.

“Were ISU’s interpretation to hold true, it would mean that, for example, a city airport commission would be exempt from the open meeting requirements because the governing board of a city is a city council and not an airport commission,” Hoffman writes.

“The parking board is, in fact, a full board charged with recommending and deciding public policies,” he adds.

Hoffman asks Wasden to instruct ISU that any action taken on May 12 is null and void “and that all future meetings of the parking advisory board must be conducted in public.”

From the Idaho State Journal

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