If all goes according to schedule
today tomorrow, KEA is filing a lawsuit in a Bonner County court regarding Idaho Public Records Act violations by Bonner County officials. KEA had made a simple request for emails regarding the activities of the Bonner County Property Rights Council, which the County denied.
Recall that in February, KEA came across an article in the “Right Side News” by Tom DeWeese titled “Major New Weapon in the Fight Against the UN.” The article discusses an “attack” on private property ownership though the United Nation’s Agenda 21 and what Bonner County has done in response to these “attacks.” The article names Bonner County Commissioner Cornel Rasor, Bonner County attorney Scott Bauer, and property rights activist Karen Bracken as leading an action plan against United Nation’s Agenda 21. Such plan included the creation of Bonner County’s Property Rights Council (“PRC”) and the encouragement of other individuals to create similar councils. The article further explains that these three named individuals are available to interested citizens who would like to start up their own council.
Because the PRC is an official arm of Bonner County Government, KEA sent a public records request seeking emails or other correspondence to or from Karen Bracken and Tom DeWeese. The request was denied almost immediately. Bonner County claims these communications fall outside the scope of Idaho public records laws because Bauer and Rasor purportedly used personal email accounts. However, as the KEA complaint points out, “Regardless of the form of communication, so long as the content of the communication relates to the public interest and is between governmental officials, the communications are subject to disclosure.” Indeed, the complaint notes;
“The communications requested by KEA relate to the official business of Bonner County as the request relates to the public comments by public officials in a public forum about the Bonner County PRC, not the private affairs of the defendants.”
Furthermore, our complaint, KEA v Bonner County, points out that Idaho Supreme Court has said that
Idaho’s Public Records Act has a clear policy, as established by the legislature, “that the public has a right to view and inspect records relating to the public’s business and this right cannot be denied by the expediency of having some other entity conduct the public’s business at some other location.”
The complaint also notes the attempt by Bonner County to change their computer use policy to hide the email exchange. After KEA’s request, Bonner County changed its policy to allow “privacy” in communications by Bonner County Commissioners and Bonner County prosecutors using county equipment for their own use.
Stay tuned to the blog for updates in the case. And, as always, thanks to our friends and members who support our work in this case.