Public Access Limited When Idaho Agencies Hire Contractors

Mar 18, 2015

Idaho relies on private contractors to carry out government functions ranging from running prisons to keeping schools connected online.

The state's public records law clearly states no matter who holds the documents — government vendor or public agency — public records are always public. But a test of the law by The Associated Press shows the reality is murkier.

The AP sent public records requests to five major companies and the state agencies that they contract with: The Department of Health and Welfare and Medicaid contractors Molina and Optum; Department of Correction and private prison companies MTC and Corrections Corporation of America; and the Department of Administration and former school broadband contractor Education Networks of America.

Only the Health and Welfare Department, Molina and Optum fulfilled the requests. The correction and administration departments provided only the records that their agencies held, not the records held by the contractors.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says the government can't deny requests for public records simply because they are held by a third-party organization.