Balukoff: Shredding may have broken law

UPDATED: 4 p.m., with reaction from Gov. Butch Otter’s office.

Gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff ripped Gov. Butch Otter on Monday — for shredding documents.

Balukoff, a Democrat, said an Otter aide may have violated state law by destroying paperwork from 22 candidates for the State Board of Education.

Balukoff
A.J. Balukoff

“Gov. Otter does not respect the fundamental American value that government should not keep secrets from the public,” Balukoff said in a news release.

Balukoff suggests the records destruction “would appear to violate state statute,” although the law doesn’t seem to explicitly address records retention.

On Monday afternoon, Otter’s office responded to our request for a reaction to Balukoff’s comments.

“First, Idaho law covers the release of public records, not the Idaho Constitution,” wrote Cally Younger, Otter’s new public records ombudsman and associate counsel. “Second, Idaho law does not require applications be disclosed. In fact, they are exempt from disclosure. (I.C. 9-340(c)). The law does require the disclosure of the names of applicants, which the Governor provided. The release of the redacted applications was to provide additional transparency. Finally, record retention policies are up to each state agency and the Governor’s Office protects people’s personal information, like phones numbers, addresses, Social Security numbers and drivers’ licenses, by shredding the applications once they are no longer candidates.”

Earlier this month, Idaho Education News (or “a media company,” according to Balukoff’s news release) filed a public records request for the State Board applications. Younger released 15 applications — from candidates who at least made it to the screening phase. The remaining applications were destroyed, Younger said last week, because the applications contained “sensitive personal information.”

The 70 pages of documents released last week were redacted to conceal personal information, such as driver’s license numbers, street and email addresses and telephone numbers.

Here is a link to the full Balukoff statement (which does identify Idaho Education News by name). And here, in full, is his news release:

Gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff today questioned Gov. Otter’s commitment to government transparency in the destruction of 22 applications for two open seats on the state Board of Education, which he noted might violate state law. “Gov. Otter does not respect the fundamental American value that government should not keep secrets from the public,” said Balukoff.

Last week, when a media company asked for the 37 applications, it was told that almost two-thirds of them had been destroyed because they contained sensitive personal information. “This action not only defies logic, it would appear to violate state statute,” said Balukoff, citing Idaho Statute, Title 9, Chapter 3.

Balukoff questioned what the destruction of the 22 state Board of Education applications says about Gov. Otter’s commitment to transparent government and obeying the state’s open-records law. “The public has the right to know who’s seeking positions in government, and there was no legitimate reason to have destroyed those records,” said Balukoff.

“One of the main reasons I decided to run for governor was to restore accountability and trust in state government. Everywhere I go around Idaho, people of all political persuasions tell me they’re tired of the cronyism and backroom deals,” Balukoff said, “I promise you that my administration will always maintain complete openness and compliance with our public-records law.”

More here, from Betsy Russell, Spokane Spokesman-Review: In an original post, Balukoff mistakenly said public records language was contained in the state Constitution.

More here, from Clark Corbin: A look at the two State Board appointees.

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