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Posted: Dec 27, 2007  12:25

Open Meeting-Complaint Filed Against School District


The editor of a Bonners Ferry-based online news and information site filed an open-meeting complaint against the Boundary County School District with the county's Prosecuting Attorney, alleging the board violated the State Open Meeting Law at the last two board meetings.

Jay Cohn, editor of and The Boundary County Digest, contends school trustees breached a statute in Idaho Code regarding the audibility of their Nov. 13 and Dec. 11 meetings.

The complaint has been referred to the Boundary County Sheriff's Office for investigation.

According to requirements for open public meetings under Idaho Code, "The communications among members of a governing body must be audible to the public attending the meeting in person and the members of the governing body."

In his complaint, Cohn alleges that at the last two board meetings held in the Boundary County Middle School library, he verbally requested trustees to speak louder.

"Neither of my requests were complied with," his complaint to Prosecuting Attorney Jack Douglas says. "Trustees continued to talk softly without any attempt to raise their voices and honor my request. I was also unable to hear a presentation from a member of the public at the Nov. 13 meeting."

Six patrons who attended the meetings were named in the complaint as witnessing Cohn request trustees to speak louder.

Cohn also covers public hearing and meetings throughout the county, including ones conducted by Boundary County Commissioners and Bonners Ferry City Council.

"Members of these boards and councils speak loud enough to be heard," the complaint says. "Microphones are also available at meetings if they are needed. The school board provides none."

According to his complaint, Cohn maintains he saw other members of the public "straining" to hear what trustees were discussing, asking each other if they could hear what was being said.

"Communications (at) board meetings are simply not audible," his complaint says.

According to Idaho Statue, a first-time violation of the law could mean a $150 fine per board member.

"On Dec. 27, 2007, my office received a complaint from Jay Cohn, Woodbury Reports, asserting that a violation of Idaho Code Section 67-2342 (5) may have occurred at two recent Boundary County School Board meetings," said Jack Douglas, Boundary County Prosecuting Attorney. "That issue is now under investigation. I have opened a file, completed most of my legal research, and referred the matter to the Boundary County Sheriff's Office for an investigation.

"Once I receive a report from the Sheriff's Office, then I will review that report and the law and either take further action or issue a statement, doing whatever is proper at that time."


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