Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Reminder: It's Our Right to Know and Our Obligation to Learn

I first posted this notice on August 5, but it's worth one final reminder:

On Tuesday, August 23, 2005, from 1-3 p.m., Attorney General Lawrence Wasden will be participating in a Public Records and Open Meeting workshop at The Idaho Spokesman-Review Building, 608 Northwest Boulevard, Coeur d'alene. Please contact Susan Drumheller at 208-765-7129 or email her at susand@spokesman.com to pre-register. There is no cost to the public. Here's a Map with directions to The Spokesman-Review Building.

The Idaho public records and open meeting laws are powerful tools We, the People, need to fulfill our governmental responsibilities. Too often we say, "Let the government handle it; that's why we elect them," but then we complain when elected officials and their appointees do what we've given them free reign to do.

"Government" is not "them" in an "us versus them" conflict. Our obligation as citizens, the "us" side of the governmental equation, is to provide thoughtful, meaningful input to our elected representatives and their appointees. The Idaho public records and open meeting laws are tools available to us to gather the information we need to produce and provide that input to those whom we empower to represent us.

Sadly, a few elected and appointed officials think some of the public's business is best performed behind closed doors. Public and press not allowed. Often the cited reasons are to allow electees and appointees to speak more freely and without fear of their comments being misinterpreted. "What you heard might not be what what I meant," or, "So people can speak freely about the issues without having to worry about reading one of their quotes in the newspaper," are not valid reasons for hiding what they said. Why is what was said subject to misinterpretation by the public but not by the participants?

Whether or not you plan to attend either the meeting with AG Wasden, I urge you to go to the AG's website page entitled Attorney General Pamphlets and Legal Manuals. The two publications most relevant to the Tuesday meeting are The Idaho Open Meeting Law Manual and The Idaho Public Records Law Manual. These are very readable question-and-answer type booklets intended to educate us non-barristers.

And while you're at the AG's website and on that particular page, you'll see several other manuals and publications well worth the time to read. They include The Idaho Ethics in Goverment Manual and The Idaho Regulatory Takings Act Guidelines.

Some months ago I asked the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney to investigate the Coeur d'Alene Mayor and City Council members for their evasion of the Idaho Open Meeting Law. After reading an article in the Coeur d'Alene Press reporting the Prosecutor's findings, a friend of mine who has lived for decades in Coeur d'Alene asked me what authority I had to even make my request of the Prosecutor. My friend wasn't upset with me. Rather, he was amazed that the Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney would act on such a request from an ordinary citizen who has no social, political, or economic influence in Coeur d'Alene. That the Kootenai County Prosecutor was responsive to my request is a clear demonstration of the law's power, not mine. That's why we all need to be as familiar as we can with the legal tools available to us. AG Wasden deserves a great deal of credit for making those tools available in language even I can understand.


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