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McGeachin exposes 'truth' about legal issues with the media

Disclosure: 9B News Publisher Mike Weland is a member of the Idaho Press Club, and is currently working with the organization to obtain the release of public records being withheld by the governing board of the Boundary County Library District.

October 16, 2021

By Mike Weland

Art Macomber and Janice McGeachin
"If you would like to hear the truth about our legal issues with the media, I invite you to attend our press conference on Thursday at 3:00 pm. Please join Art Macomber and myself at Ammon Elementary School," Idaho Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeahchin posted to her Twitter feed Wednesday. After grudgingly releasing public records as a result of a lawsuit filed against her in July by the Idaho Press Club, McGeachin took the stage and declared she was protecting whistleblowers who participated in her Education Task Force investigation into student indoctrination in public schools and calling on the Idaho AG's office to pay $30,000 costs for "bad lawyering."

"We are here for one reason," McGeachin said. "I was trying to protect parents, teachers, and students who were blowing whistles at some of the things that were happening in their communities. Whistleblowers should be protected. Over the last five years, the press has doxxed and publicly shamed private individuals. People have had their lives upended because the media decided to shame them. My goal was never to withhold public comments from the press but to protect Idahoans from the media.”

The task force she assembled was looking for alleged indoctrination of students in Idaho schools to “protect our young people from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism and Marxism.”

Four public requests were made for questionnaires submitted by Idahoans in response to an on-line survey by the task force.

In response to the Idaho Press Club lawsuit,  on August 26, Fourth District Judge Steven Hippler ordered McGeachin release the requested public documents, awarding the press club attorney's fees and costs, and levying a $750 civil penalty, finding, among other things, that the Idaho Public Records Act grants a general right to the public to examine and copy public records of the state, including “any writing containing information relating to the conduct or administration of the public's business prepared, owned, used or retained by any state agency, independent public body corporate and politic or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics."

When the documents still hadn't been released by the end of September, the Idaho Press Club's attorneys asked Judge Hippler to hold McGeachin in contempt and order her jailed until she turned over the records. She released the records the following day.

Prior to her taking the stage Thursday, Coeur d'Alene attorney Art Macomber, appearing for the lieutenant governor "as her attorney, at no charge," characterized McGeachin as "a true conservative who fights the establishment even when the Republican Party, when the Republicans start acting like Democrats and taking away the freedoms of Idahoans."

Macomber is a candidate for Idaho Attorney General.

Asserting that the Idaho Attorney General gave her bad advice as regards the case, he said they should have to pay the nearly $30,000 in attorney's fees and costs levied against McGeachin.

"Not surprisingly, the AG's office refused to continue representing her after completely undermining her trust in its counsel," Macomber said. "This is a result of bad lawyering. As Idaho's next attorney general, the advice coming from my office will be dependable. As your attorney general, your conservative elected officials will finally have its true defender in office."

"The lawsuit, the lieutenant governor’s loss in court and the subsequent financial burden Idaho taxpayers now face all resulted from independent decisions made by the lieutenant governor in consultation with her chosen attorney after June 7," Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden wrote in a press release later that day. “This entire matter is an excellent demonstration of why government should seek legal counsel that it needs to hear instead of what it wants to hear.”

On October 14, the Idaho Press Club released the following statement:

"The judge made it very clear why we won our public records lawsuit against Lt. Gov. McGeachin: She unlawfully refused to release public records requested by four different reporters, for months on end. 'The disclosure of public records is prescribed by law,' Fourth District Judge Steven Hippler wrote in his August 26 decision in the case, 'and fear mongering has no place in the calculus.'

“'If public officials were required to disclose public records only to those, including media, they believe will support the government’s actions, we will have shed the principles of our democracy and evolved into an autocratic state where criticism of public officials is not permitted,' Hippler wrote.

"The judge also imposed a $750 civil fine for 'bad faith' violations of the Idaho Public Records Act against McGeachin and ordered her to pay the Press Club’s attorney fees and costs, but she still didn’t release the records as ordered by the judge. It was only after the Press Club filed a motion to have her held in contempt of court until she released the records that, the very next day, she finally did so, on September 30.

"The Press Club and McGeachin, in consultation with our attorneys, then filed a joint motion to drop the contempt motion, in exchange for McGeachin’s release of all the records and payment of fees and costs. The Press Club requested fees and costs only through August 26, not for the remaining month-plus that the case stretched on. The court approved the order this week, and ordered McGeachin to pay $28,973.84 in fees and costs, plus the civil penalty of $750. She and her attorneys agreed to this.

"On September 8, McGeachin submitted a supplemental budget request for '$50,000 in supplemental funding to pay for legal bills that cannot be covered by the Lt. Governor's Office current budget without reducing staff hours and constituent services,' directly citing this case.

"No fees, costs or fines would have been incurred had the lieutenant governor simply released the records when requested, as the law requires."

Questions or Comments? Send us an email!

Mike Weland, Publisher  

6931 Main St.
P.O. Box 1625
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805
(208) 295-1016

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