Friday, July 29, 2011

City refuses to divulge name of Hailey Ice donor

Hailey passes new ordinance regarding public records requests


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

The Hailey City Council passed an ordinance Monday setting charges for some public records requests.

The new city ordinance could make costly an Idaho Mountain Express request to find out the name of an anonymous donor who promised last year at least $800,000 toward completion of an ice rink in Hailey.

Thanks to Idaho Press Club lobbyists, Idaho law regarding charges for public records requests was changed during the 2011 Legislature. The new law requires that for each request, city officials provide up to 100 pages of documents and spend up to two hours of staff time for free to anyone seeking public information.

"That means the vast majority of everyday public records requests most reporters in Idaho file are now free," wrote Idaho Press Club President Betsy Russell in the press club's Summer 2011 newsletter.

The Hailey ordinance sets labor charges from $30 for administrative staff time to $150 per hour for the city attorney's time for researching, copying and sending public information taking more than two hours or consisting of more than 100 pages. The ordinance also states that "actual labor and copying costs may be recovered ... if the request includes records from which non-public information must be deleted."

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The Idaho Mountain Express made a formal public records request to Hailey City Administrator Heather Dawson in January to see all communications between city personnel and outside organizations regarding a proposed anonymous donation to Hailey Ice Inc.

Dawson responded, sending the Mountain Express several emails regarding the proposed donation, but removed others that she said pertained to attorney/client privilege, thereby keeping the name of the anonymous donor from the public eye.

The city has not responded to a follow-up request.

How much it could cost the Idaho Mountain Express to obtain the city records "from which non-public information must be deleted" has not been determined.

The donation, which has been widely and publicly discussed, was expected to provide much of the funding for construction of an ice rink/recreation center at the city's rodeo grounds, as part of an overall plan to rebuild the rodeo grounds. About $500,000 of the $600,000 in Hailey Ice's cash reserves was spent on a foundation for the rink before the donor indefinately delayed any payment. Hailey citizens voted in May 2010 to approve a $3.5 million bond issue to fund a new rodeo arena that was marketed as a companion project to the ice arena.

Calls to Hailey City Attorney Ned Williamson last week, requesting the name of the prospective Hailey Ice donor, were not returned.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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