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Idaho State Board of Education declines to 'cure' potential open meetings law violation

A brick wall with  University of Idaho in gold letters written on it with the date 1889 above it.
Richard Rodriguez
Boise State Public Radio

The Idaho State Board of Education is preparing to defend itself against alawsuit filedby Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador.

Labrador says the Board violated open meeting laws by negotiating and deliberating on the University of Idaho's purchase of the University of Phoenix behind closed doors. In a special meeting on Friday, the State Board of Education consulted with an outside attorney to determine the next steps.

Board chair Kurt Leibich began the meeting with a quick move behind closed doors.

"I move we go into executive session pursuant to Idaho code 74-2061-F to communicate with legal counsel for the public agency to discuss the legal ramification of and legal options for pending litigation,” said Leibich.

Details from the executive session are private, but one possibility was correcting any potential open meetings law violation by reversing the previous decision and making U of I start the process to buy the University of Phoenix all over again.

The board unanimously voted to take no action. Board President Linda Clark said the use of executive sessions for the University of Idaho decision was reviewed by attorneys.

"Even now with the benefit of hindsight analysis, we believe the exemption applies therefore no violation occurred and no cure is necessary," said Clark.

That exemption is meant to accommodate competitive negotiations.

In a written statement, shown in full below, Labrador accused the board of neglecting its duties and continuing down a fiscally wasteful litigious path. He says the people of Idaho should have been given an opportunity to weigh in on the University’s decision.

Today, ISBE had an opportunity to simply cure a mistake and make a clear commitment to transparent governance. Instead, the Board neglected their duties and continued down a path of wasting taxpayer funds and resources to justify its failure to follow Idaho Open Public Meeting laws all to keep a half-billion dollar transaction from public discourse. The people of Idaho should be given an opportunity to evaluate such a significant financial decision.

As stated by AG Labrador previously, Idaho’s Open Meetings statute entrusts the attorney general to vindicate the people’s interest in transparent government. Every elected Idaho official should want public affairs to be conducted in full view of the public and consistent with the law. The people of Idaho deserve nothing less. This shouldn’t be controversial.

Idaho Attorney General's Office

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.

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