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Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin lowers budget request for legal fees

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, right, shortly before greeting a crowd on the steps of the Idaho Capitol in Boise as she announces her bid for governor in 2022.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, right, shortly before greeting a crowd on the steps of the Idaho Capitol in Boise as she announces her bid for governor in 2022.

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin is still asking taxpayers to foot her legal bills in a lawsuit she lost last year after she refused to release public records.

In 2021, McGeachin’s office balked at releasing unredacted copies of the thousands of comments it received related to her education indoctrination task force.

A judge sided with the Idaho Press Club, saying her office “acted in bad faith” and that the exemptions it cited were so irrelevant that her team “maybe have blindly selected them at random.”

During a budget hearing Wednesday, McGeachin said she didn’t want commenters to be doxed, meaning having their identities and personal information released on the internet.

She said she and her businesses have faced harassment after her information was spread online.

“It’s not a pleasant experience and our whole effort was to protect the identity of the Idahoans who were submitting these comments,” McGeachin said.

She didn’t release those records until a month after the judge’s ruling when the Idaho Press Club asked to have her held in contempt of court.

McGeachin is asking lawmakers to pay $29,000 for a private lawyer who defended her in the case. An initial request made by her office last October was $50,000.

She said she’d have to reduce staffing hours and constituent services without the money.

Last fall, the lieutenant governor requested the money come out of the Idaho Attorney General’s budget, who had initially consulted with her over the public records requests. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden “was not agreeable to that” idea, according to McGeachin.

An email from the AG’s office on June 7, 2021,advised her to release the unredacted records or seek a second legal opinion.

“The lieutenant governor received that advice and then proceeded to independently hire her own attorney. In consultation with that attorney, she embarked on a path of litigation that ultimately proved unsuccessful,” Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said in a statement Wednesday.

Lawmakers will consider her request later this spring.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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