‘Hearsay within hearsay:’ Legislature’s attorney fires back at Ybarra

Court filings from Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra and her legislative aide — chronicling a split between Ybarra and fellow Republicans in the Legislature — came under counterattack this week.

An attorney for the Legislature said the statements are filled with hearsay, and should be thrown out.

The motion represents the latest volley in an escalating legal battle between Ybarra, the Legislature and her State Board of Education colleagues. Ybarra sued the Legislature and the State Board last month, seeking to block a law transferring 18 employees and $2.7 million from Ybarra’s State Department of Education to the State Board.

The Idaho Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case on June 5.

The question before the court centers on constitutional matters — and whether the state superintendent or the State Board drives education policy in Idaho. But the dispute has taken a personal tone.

In detailed filings submitted on May 15, Ybarra and her legislative liaison, Marilyn Whitney, describe a series of meetings with legislators and state officials during the 2020 session. The notes represent the SDE’s account of the Legislature’s move to transfer the 18 employees from the SDE to the State Board.

Their notes — detailed in an Idaho Education News article Thursday — suggest that lawmakers wanted to strip the positions from the SDE as political payback, and as part of a cloak-and-dagger campaign to weaken the department by carving out pieces of its budget.

“(Ybarra and Whitney) attempt to introduce out-of-court statements by others, seeking to establish the truth of the matter asserted, without satisfying or even addressing any form of exception to the hearsay rules,” wrote William G. Myers III, a Boise lawyer hired to represent the Legislature. “Both exhibits are replete with hearsay, often including hearsay within hearsay.”

Myers’ motion, filed Thursday, also seeks to strike another filing in support of Ybarra. Russell Joki — a former Nampa School District superintendent and West Ada School District trustee, who now teaches school district law at Northwest Nazarene University — argues that the Legislature violated the state Constitution by shifting staff and responsibilities from SDE to the State Board.

David Leroy, Ybarra’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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