UPDATE: AG’s Office repsonds to McGeachin
Lieutenant Governor said her litigation with the Idaho Press Club was the result of bad legal advice from the AG’s office
AMMON, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - At the press conference, McGeachin was represented, at no charge, by Art Macomber, who is also running for Idaho Attorney General. He said the litigation the Lieutenant Governor was involved in with the Idaho Press Club was the result of bad legal advice from the AG’s office in response to the public records request, and their office should pay the $30,000 in legal fees and cost levied against McGeachin.
In a statement, KMVT received from Idaho Attorney General Spokesman Scott Graf the AG’s office said:
“The Office of the Attorney General offered its final legal counsel on this matter to the lieutenant governor on June 7, 2021. Following that communication, the lieutenant governor made an independent decision to seek outside representation. Then - approximately six weeks after our final counsel - the Idaho Press Club filed its lawsuit.
“Attorney-client privilege precludes us from discussing the specifics of our counsel at this point. However, 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.
“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.”
Macomber said: “If the AG does not pay for its bad lawyering, approximately 16% of the Lieutenant Governor’s yearly budget will have to go to pay for the AG’s lack of integrity in defending its legal opinion. That is wrong”.
AMMON, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — On Thursday afternoon at Ammon Elementary School Lieutenant Governor Janice Lieutenant McGeachin admonished reporters during a press conference for not getting the facts straight regarding her education task force, and litigation involving the Idaho Press Club.
At the press conference, McGeachin was represented, at no charge, by Art Macomber, who is also running for Idaho Attorney General. He said the litigation the Lieutenant Governor was involved in with the Idaho Press Club was the result of bad legal advice from the AG’s office in response to the public records request, and their office should pay the $30,000 in legal fees and cost levied against McGeachin.
“If the AG does not pay for its bad lawyering, approximately 16 percent of the Lieutenant Governor‘s yearly budget will have to go to pay for the AG’s lack of integrity in defending its legal opinion. That is wrong,” Macomber said.
He also went as far as to call it retaliation from the Republican establishment.
“The Lieutenant Governor is a true conservative who fights the establishment even when the Republican Party and Republicans start acting like Democrats in taking away the freedoms of Idahoans,” Macomber said.
The Lieutenant governor said her intention was to protect the identity of whistleblowers who came forward during her Education Taskforce meetings, and provide the Idaho Press Club with public comments from her meetings but redact the identities.
“Over the last five years, the press has publicly shamed private individuals. People have had their lives upended because the media decided to shame them,” McGeachin said.
However, things did not play out that way for the Lieutenant Governor.
“Not only has the judge ordered the release of constituents’ identities and personal information, but the judge has also ordered that my office pay the legal fees of the Idaho press club,” McGeachin said.
At the end of the press conference, which lasted about nine minutes, McGeachin took time to paint out all the times she has been misrepresented in the media. Such as she was afraid to hand over documents that would expose her task force as being a fraud, which she said wasn’t the case. She also told the media that reports of her being in contempt of court are inaccurate, and none of her task force meetings are held in secrecy. McGeachin said they are all open to the public.
“We could spend all day going over the media’s misrepresentations of myself, and my office, and my tasks force. However, I will end my corrections here,” Mcgeachin said.
The Lieutenant Governor did not take questions after her press conference.
The Idaho Press Club issued the following statement in response to McGeachin’s press conference:
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,” 4th District Judge Steven Hippler wrote in his Aug. 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 Sept. 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 Aug. 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 Sept. 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.
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