Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin has reduced her supplemental budget request for funding to pay for outside legal bills that arose from a lawsuit filed by the Idaho Press Club over access to public records.
State records obtained by the Idaho Capital Sun also indicate the state cut a check last week for almost $29,000 to pay the Idaho Press Club’s costs and attorney fees, which a judge ordered McGeachin to cover.
McGeachin originally filed documents with the state seeking $50,000 to cover legal expenses she incurred over the suit, Boise State Public Radio reported Oct 1.
Since then, McGeachin reduced the request to $28,973.84, according to documents obtained by the Idaho Capital Sun. In an Oct. 18 email to an Idaho Division of Financial Management deputy administrator, McGeachin’s chief of staff Jordan Watters explained the $28,973.84 was for covering the press club’s expenses.
“Now that the legal dispute has been resolved, the Office of the Lt. Governor is lowering its supplemental request for fiscal year 2023,” Watters wrote in the email. “The Office of the Lt. Governor was advised by the Attorney General’s Office regarding public records requests. Her Office responded and acted upon this advice. The Idaho Press Club sued the Office of the Lt. Governor and the judge ruled in favor of the Idaho Press Club. Judge (Steven Hippler) has ordered the Office of the Lt. Governor to pay the legal fees of the Idaho Press Club in the recent lawsuit. Now that this issue has been resolved, we are lowering our supplemental request to $28,973.84, which represents the legal fees of the Idaho Press Club.”
Other records obtained by the Sun show the state sent a check for Stoel Rives LLP for $28,973.84 on Oct. 29 to pay for the “Idaho Press Club settlement,” according to a copy of the check and the stub attached to it.
It is still not clear if McGeachin owes legal bills for the private attorney who represented her in the lawsuit.
The Idaho Attorney General’s Office gave its final legal counsel to McGeachin on June 7, the Attorney General’s Office announced in a Oct. 14 statement. After that, McGeachin sought outside, private legal representation and the Idaho Press Club filed its suit in July.
In response to a previous public records request, McGeachin’s office provided a heavily redacted copy of a legal agreement with Boyles Law. However, everything on the five-page agreement, including the page numbers, was blacked out aside from attorney Colton Boyles’ hourly rate of $250 and the $120 hourly rate for his paralegal.
The Idaho Capital Sun sent Watters an email Wednesday afternoon and left a message Thursday at his office asking whether McGeachin now has invoices or records of bills for her outside legal services. Watters could not be reached for comment.
In response to another public records request, Watters told the Idaho Capital Sun in an Oct. 7 email “After a diligent search, we are unable to find any invoices.”
The Idaho Press Club filed the lawsuit after McGeachin declined to release more than 3,000 public comments and records related to her education task force, which met at the Idaho Statehouse this summer. McGeachin eventually released the records after a district judge ordered her to do so when she lost the lawsuit. The overwhelming majority of public comments opposed McGeachin’s task force or voiced support for Idaho public schools.
The Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will consider McGeachin’s supplemental funding request after the Legislature convenes in January, Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, said in October. If JFAC doesn’t approve the supplemental request, McGeachin could have to come up with the money elsewhere. In her original supplemental request, McGeachin said that could come at the expense of reducing staff hours.
Idaho Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Christine Lords for questions: [email protected] Follow Idaho Capital Sun on Facebook and Twitter.