Ada County wants Press Club’s public records lawsuit dismissed

From the Idaho Press

By ERIN BAMER

Ada County is requesting the 4th District Court dismiss the Idaho Press Club’s lawsuit against it.

The suit claims county officials repeatedly violated Idaho’s Public Records Act in response to four public records requests by local reporters.

In a memorandum in opposition filed Wednesday, Ada County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney James Dickinson says the Board of Commissioners and the sheriff’s office followed the law when responding to reporters’ requests, while legally redacting some information to protect individuals’ rights and privileges.

The county also filed a memorandum in support of a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the Idaho Press Club did not name or serve the proper parties in the lawsuit, and that the Press Club lacks standing to sue on behalf of the individual journalists.

In the lawsuit, Idaho Statesman reporters Cynthia Sewell and Katy Moeller, Idaho Public Television reporter Melissa Davlin and Idaho Education News editor Jennifer Swindell contend they had public record requests wrongly denied, overly redacted or otherwise mishandled by county officials in recent months, according to an Associated Press report. In the petition, the reporters included 10 pages of emails exchanged with Ada County officials pertaining to the record requests.

“These violations by Idaho’s largest county only encourage further confusion and abuse of public records law throughout the state,” Davlin, who is vice president of the Idaho Press Club, told the AP earlier this month.

In Wednesday’s filings, Dickinson wrote the Board of County Commissioners provided over 1,100 pages of records in response to the three public records requests; the fourth request, he wrote, was an email asking for a 911 call transcript.

“The (Idaho Press Club’s) petition fails for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it jumbles together four discrete requests — assuming the (Ada County Sheriff’s Office) email inquiry amounts to a request — that should be litigated individually,” he wrote.

Idaho’s Public Records Act does allow for record requests to be sent over email. State code section 74-102(4) states: “A request for public records and delivery of the public records may be made by electronic mail.”

Dickinson argued the Idaho Press Club “misapplies Idaho law,” in that Ada County officials provided a statutory basis for their denials and redactions.

“The (Ada County Board of Commissioners) and the (Ada County Sheriff’s Office) stay abreast of applicable federal and Idaho law and apply it meticulously to every request, carefully balancing all competing interests, including protecting the privacy rights of individuals inherent in many of its records,” he wrote.

Multiple media outlets, including the Idaho Press and the Idaho Statesman, have financially contributed to the Press Club’s effort to bring this lawsuit. Idaho Press reporter Betsy Russell is president of the Idaho Press Club.

A hearing the lawsuit is scheduled for Oct. 2 before 4th District Judge Deborah Bail.

From the Idaho Press

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