Public records show McGeachin billed nearly $17,000 for her own legal fees in records lawsuit

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin was billed $16,847.60 by the attorney representing her in a lawsuit she lost after declining to release public records related to her education task force, newly obtained records show.

The $16,847.60 total was from two invoices from the Sandpoint-based law firm Boyles Law, according to records McGeachin’s office released to the Idaho Capital Sun over the past two weeks. 

The invoices were heavily redacted, with everything but the dollar amounts, law firm name and McGeachin’s name obscured by black boxes.

These invoices are separate from the legal fees and costs that Idaho District Judge Steven Hippler ordered McGeachin to pay to the Idaho Press Club after McGeachin lost the public records case in 2021. Those fees and costs totaled $28,973.84, and McGeachin submitted a supplemental budget request asking for those fees to be covered by the state.

Taxpayers are not on the hook for the latest invoices for McGeachin’s own legal representation, McGeachin wrote in a letter to a budget analyst from the Legislative Services Office on Monday, according to documents obtained by the Sun.

“No taxpayer dollars have been spent on this invoice, or the invoice previously shared with your office regarding legal fees to Boyles Law,” McGeachin wrote. “This invoice, like the other invoice, was not submitted to the office of the Lt. Governor in the time necessary to do budget requests or supplemental budget requests.”

McGeachin’s staff also told the Sun taxpayer dollars were not used to pay for her legal fees.

Neither invoice from Boyles Law was included in the supplemental request, and no taxpayer dollars have been spent,” Jordan Watters, McGeachin’s chief of staff, wrote in an email to the Sun.

A closer look at McGeachin’s invoices and where they came from

The legal fees and invoices all relate to a July 2021 lawsuit the Idaho Press Club filed after McGeachin declined to release records of public comments about her task force to several news organizations, including the Idaho Capital Sun and Idaho Education News. 

McGeachin lost the case and released the public comments after Hippler ordered her to do so. The vast majority of the 3,602 comments that were ultimately released were either critical of McGeachin or her task force or supportive of Idaho public schools. 

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office issued a statement in October saying it advised McGeachin on the matter before the lawsuit was filed and before McGeachin made an independent decision to seek her own outside representation. The Attorney General’s Office statement also said “the subsequent financial burden Idaho taxpayers now face” is a result of McGeachin seeking independent counsel.

The Idaho Capital Sun filed multiple public records requests for McGeachin’s own legal invoices since June 15, 2021.

On Oct. 7, Watters emailed the Sun in response to one records request, writing, in part: “After a diligent search, we are unable to find any invoices.”

However, when McGeachin’s office provided the first of two invoices to the Sun on Jan. 24, the invoice from Boyles Law was dated July 20, 2021, and listed a due date of Aug. 19, 2021. The date on the second invoice from Boyle Law was blacked out. 

It was not immediately clear why McGeachin’s office was “unable to find any invoices” in October if they had been billed months earlier in July. In an email to the Sun, Watters wrote, “Two invoices were received in our office on November 9, 2021.”

The first invoice, the one dated July 20, 2021, was for $2,525. The second invoice, with the redacted date, totaled $14,322.60.

The Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee heard McGeachin’s $28,973.84 request for supplemental funding on Jan. 19, and did not make a decision or vote on the request that day. Instead, Rep. Colin Nash, D-Boise, asked for additional documentation of her own legal bills and any opinions on the public records requests issued by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office. 

Even though the $28,973.84 McGeachin requested supplemental funding for represents an extremely small portion of the state’s proposed $4.5 billion budget, it is coming under scrutiny with McGeachin running for governor in 2022.

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.

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