Judge says Boise ‘frivolously’ withheld public records, orders city to pay attorney fees

From the Idaho Statesman

After the city of Boise canceled Clearview Cleaning Services’ $368,000 contract to clean city facilities, its owner filed a public records request to try to learn what happened.

The city refused to turn over some of the records, saying they pertained to a “law enforcement investigation.” So Clearview Cleaning Services owner Sylvia Hampel took the city to court to gain access to the records.

Judge Thomas Neville didn’t accept the city’s claim that the documents were exempt from public disclosure. On Aug. 19, he ordered city to pay most of the legal fees Hampel incurred taking to the city to court.

Neville said seven of 10 withheld documents “could not under any plausible reading be described as investigatory records of a law enforcement agency as claimed by the city.” The judge also found that “the city’s refusal to provide those seven documents was frivolously pursued.”

Since seven of the 10 documents were frivolously withheld, the court ordered the city to pay 70 percent of Hampel’s legal costs, or $4,137.22.

The legal victory did not give Hampel the answers she was seeking. She still does not know why the city canceled her contract just before it was to begin.

The released documents did reveal some details about the city’s decision to end Hampel’s contact.

According to one email, recently retired Boise Deputy Police Chief Jim Kerns called a Feb. 28 meeting with Boise Mayor Dave Bieter’s chief of staff, Jade Riley, and representatives from the city’s purchasing and legal departments to discuss the Police Department cleaning contract and “a security sensitive issue that must resolved before the close of business.”

Clearview Cleaning was to begin the next day cleaning City Hall, the libraries, the police station and other city facilities. After that meeting, the city sent Hampel an email canceling the contract for “purchasing irregularities.”

The city then piggybacked onto the state’s cleaning contract with ABM to also provide cleaning services to the city.

Hampel said she does not plan to pursue further legal action against the city. A city spokesman said the city does not plan an appeal.

Hampel’s company this week was awarded the contract to clean the Ada County Courthouse.

From the Idaho Statesman

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