Idaho Transparency Icon, Gary Ingram, Dies

Dec 1, 2017

Former state Rep. Gary Ingram, the original author of Idaho's open meeting law and champion of public access in government, has died. He was 84.

Ingram's wife, Thelma, said her husband died Thursday in Coeur d'Alene, just a day after his birthday. His cause of death wasn't undisclosed.

"He was a remarkable man," she said. "It's been very hard to process. He will be greatly missed."

Ingram led the effort in 1974 to codify a simple but important Idaho value: The public's business ought to be done in public. A few years later, he added an amendment that would render decisions made in secret null and void, according to the Idaho Newspaper Association.

"The people of the State of Idaho in creating the instruments of government that serve them, do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies so created," Ingram wrote in the preamble of open meeting law. "Therefore, the legislature finds and declares that it is the policy of this state that the formation of public policy is public business and shall not be conducted in secret."

The preamble should be the "guiding light for those seeking enlightenment about the public's right to know," Ingram once told reporters.

The open meeting law passed the Idaho Legislature at the same time voters overwhelmingly approved the state's sunshine law, which outlined policies on lobbying and campaign finance.

"I was saddened to learn of Rep. Ingram's passing," Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said in a statement. "His legacy as the father of Idaho's Open Meetings Law ensures transparency and confidence that our republic will carry on. Through his work, he brought light to Idaho government at every level."

Ingram served four terms as a state representative from 1973 to 1980. He remained a vocal advocate for government transparency after leaving the Idaho Statehouse by speaking out against legislative attempts to expand closed-door meetings.

Ingram arrived in North Idaho from Minnesota in 1961, according to BuzzFeed News and was on the ground floor of a conservative shift in Kootenai County politics.

Brent Regan, chairman Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, called Ingram a true Republican.