McGeachin requests public money for legal bills after losing suit over task force records
Jacob Scholl and Nicole Blanchard, Idaho Statesman
Published at | Updated at
BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — After releasing public records pursuant to a judge’s ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Idaho Press Club, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s office is requesting that taxpayers help cover her legal bills.
The Office of the Lieutenant Governor is requesting a $50,000 addition to its budget to cover “unforeseen legal bills related to a lawsuit from the Idaho Press Club after the Attorney General’s Office failed to properly represent the Office of the Lt. Governor,” according to a budget request for the 2023 fiscal year.
In the request, McGeachin’s office claims it was “forced to find outside counsel” after first being represented by and receiving guidance from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office. McGeachin ultimately hired D. Colton Boyles, an attorney based in Sandpoint, to represent her in the lawsuit.
When reached by email, a spokesperson for the Idaho Attorney General’s Office declined to comment on the matter.
If McGeachin’s budget is approved as requested, the $50,000 would come from the state’s general fund, meaning it’s taxpayer money.
McGeachin’s office says in the proposed budget that if the request for funds is not granted, the office will have to use resources from operating expenditures, which could include furloughing her office’s only full-time employee and “could reduce constituent services.”
State agencies must submit budget requests 18 months in advance, meaning that for the 2023 fiscal year, agencies were required to submit requests to the state’s Division of Financial Management by Friday, DFM Administrator Alex Adams told the Statesman.
Adams said that all government budget requests are first subject to review by the governor’s office, which gives recommendations on those requests in the executive budget. That budget will then go to the Idaho Legislature.
McGeachin on Thursday turned over records regarding her education task force looking for indoctrination in Idaho schools. The Idaho Press Club filed a lawsuit in July seeking the release of a Google Forms survey that McGeachin circulated earlier in the year soliciting public feedback, as well as additional records.
Three Idaho reporters filed public records requests to obtain the comments submitted on the form, but were told that personal identifying information in the responses would need to be redacted. McGeachin claimed that additional information could also be redacted on the basis that the responses were being written to a state legislator, task force chair Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird.
An Ada County 4th District Court judge ruled in August that both provisions for the redactions did not apply and that McGeachin denied the records “deliberately and in bad faith.” In addition to ruling that McGeachin release the records, the judge also ordered her to pay a $750 civil penalty and cover the Press Club’s attorney fees.
On Wednesday, an attorney for the Idaho Press Club filed a petition to hold McGeachin in contempt of court because a month had passed and she still had not released the records. That same day, Judge Steven Hippler rejected McGeachin’s motion for relief from judgment.
McGeachin released the records the following day.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Staff at both the Idaho Statesman and EastIdahoNews.com are members of the Idaho Press Club.