Idaho Press Club wins lawsuit against Ada County

Posted at 5:29 PM, Dec 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-13 19:29:17-05

BOISE — An Idaho judge is ruling in favor of the Idaho Press Club in a lawsuit filed over public records requests and the results journalists received from Ada County.

Fourth District Judge Deborah Bail ruled "The Idaho Press Club is the prevailing party" , saying "the Act favors timeliness, narrow exclusions and openness; Ada County’s approach emphasized delay, unsupportable interpretations of privilege and secrecy. Ada County not only did not follow the Idaho Public Records Act, it acted as though different Act had been enacted—a reverse image 0f Idaho law. N0 public agency is free t0 create its own Public Records Act."

In the lawsuit, the Idaho Press Club, Idaho Statesman reporters Cynthia Sewell and Katy Moeller, Idaho Public Television reporter Melissa Davlin and Idaho Education News editor Jennifer Swindell contend county officials repeatedly violated the state’s Public Records Act by wrongly denying access to some documents, over-redacting others and otherwise mishandling public information requests.

Responding to the lawsuit, Ada County released a statement that reads, "The Ada County Board of Commissioners believes ardently that public records are just that -- public. Assessable and transparent government is a cornerstone of our democracy, and we will continue to support the media's access to all public records in our jurisdiction. We believe play a critically important role in both informing the public, and ensuring the government entities manage the business of government in an open and honest manner. We will continue to provide all media with public records to which they are given access under Idaho law. As with all government agencies, personnel issues and protected information will remain protected. We will also provide in depth training to all county custodians of public records so they can respond to public records requests in the most efficient manner possible."