Friday, March 9, 2012

Stop trifling with the open meeting law


The board of trustees of the Blaine County School District administers the largest budget of any public agency in the county. Five cities in this county have budgets that are peanuts in comparison, and the county's is just one-third the size of the schools' budget.

The decisions of the board, charged as it is with providing a topnotch public education for kids, affect residents' family lives and futures profoundly.

When the five board members ran for election, each promised to make decisions in the open and to make the process of governing transparent to anyone who cared to look at it. To a person, they'd been on the other side of the fence as parents and disliked it when they felt that they didn't know what was going on.

But there's a disturbing pattern of laxity on the board with regard to openness that should stop—and fast.

First, the board used provisions of the Idaho Open Meeting Law to obscure what members were to discuss in closed-door sessions despite official state guidelines on the law that call for greater specificity. The Idaho Attorney General's office guidelines state that "the presiding officer must identify the specific authorization under the Open Meeting Law for the holding of an executive session."

The latest lapse in procedure occurred on Feb. 21 when the board voted unanimously to stick with the current school start date after Labor Day.

The board had stated in writing that it wouldn't vote on the matter in that meeting and would hold more public meetings. Instead of hearing a lot of controversy on the issue, it got lots of public support for keeping the existing start date and voted in the first meeting.

Certainly, starting school after Labor Day is more family-friendly than starting it the week before summer's last true holiday and then immediately taking a break. But the wisdom of the decision can't excuse the fact that the board failed to conduct itself properly.

Kudos to the board for subsequently admitting that its vote violated the Idaho Open Meeting Law. However, had its position been unpopular, it's likely it would have faced a torrent of criticism from the public alleging secrecy and manipulation. Merely re-voting wouldn't have been enough to erase the negative perceptions that would have been generated.

The board shouldn't trifle with the Open Meeting Law and the public that it's elected to serve.

Board Chair Steve Guthrie said there was no ill intent, but that doesn't matter. It's doing the public's business in public that matters—even when it's inconvenient or won't cause a stir.




About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of mtexpress.com and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads



 Local Weather 
Search archives:


Copyright © 2019 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.