Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden conducted a workshop Oct. 17 covering Idaho’s open-meeting and public-record laws.
“Open and honest government is fundamental to a free society,” Wasden said. “Effective private enforcement can occur only when citizens understand their rights.”
Betsy Russell, president of the Idahoans for Openness in Government, said the meeting was meant to inform the public about policies having to do with open meeting law and public record law.
The workshop program consisted of a three-hour presentation that included a three-act play, an information session and a Q-and-A session. Each act demonstrated the laws and gave the public examples about how the law works.
Members of the audience participated in the play helped give examples of the open-meeting and public-record laws in action. They showed how average citizens could be involved in government.
Betsy Russell narrated the play, entitled “For Whose Eyes Only,” and set the scene for the law in action.
As each act ended, Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane explained the open meeting and public record laws.
Kane said that all meetings must be open to the public and that anyone is allowed to go to any government meeting, especially when a decision is being made.
Kand said that for all meetings, an agenda must be posted where the meeting is taking place, although not all agendas have to have details, and minutes will not be available to the public in those cases.
The minutes of all other meetings must be available to the public in a timely manner either on paper or online, according to the Idaho Meeting Law Manual put out by the Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office.
Kane said public record laws are like having a fishing license; people can “cast their line” and get any information from the government that they need.
Kane said that public record laws ensure that the government cannot withhold any official document from the public.
Kane said documents can be requested in writing, by email or by phone.
He said people should be specific about what they want because a fee can be applied to the document requested.
Government officials will ask people questions to help them narrow down search results, but they will not deter people from getting the documents they need.
The meeting ended with Kane answering questions from the audience.