(UPDATED, 4:12 p.m., with comments from Otter’s office.)
This week, Gov. Butch Otter’s office released paperwork on some — but not all — of the Idahoans who applied for two vacant spots on the State Board of Education.
The rest, 22 of the 37 applications in all, no longer exist. “We have given you all of the applications we have,” Cally Younger, Otter’s associate counsel and the state’s public records ombudsman, said in an email to Idaho Education News Tuesday. “Previous submissions were destroyed because they contain sensitive personal information.”
But the same could be said for all the paperwork. Applicants are expected to submit their driver’s license number, their email and street address and phone numbers. The governor’s office destroyed paperwork for candidates who did not make it past the initial screening, Younger said Wednesday afternoon, to protect candidates’ private information. Otter’s office released other applications, with personal information blacked out.
Now that Otter has made his choices — David Hill of Boise and Debbie Critchfield of Oakley — all applications will be destroyed, save for the appointees, Younger said.
So, what does the state public records law say about retaining public records?
Not much, evidently.
In his public records manual — a go-to source on Idaho sunshine law — Attorney General Lawrence Wasden essentially tells agencies to do their best to do the right thing. “State agencies should adopt policies that are consistent with best business practices and generally accepted principles of accounting to classify and retain records. Record retention policies and procedures shall remain consistent with the principles of the Idaho public records law.”
The state does have a retention policy for human resources records and other documents. (On Page 10, you can find the policy for classified and non-classified state jobs.) But a State Board position is not a job, per se. It’s a political appointment. It’s unclear whether this language — or any other language — applies to gubernatorial appointments.
But back to the law.
The underpinning of Idaho public records law is simple, and stated in its opening sentence: “There is a presumption that all public records in Idaho are open at all reasonable times for inspection except as otherwise expressly provided by statute.”
There are myriad exemptions to the law, including one that covers personal information. The applications Otter’s office did release were redacted to black out applicants’ addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and driver’s license numbers.
At any rate, here’s the tally.
In response to Idaho Education News’ public records request, we received paperwork for six applicants to replace Milford Terrell on the State Board — including Hill. (Those applications are available on our website.) In all 14 candidates applied for the position. Eight candidates didn’t make the initial cut, so their applications were destroyed. The list includes a couple of familiar names: Troy Rohn, a Boise school trustee who has run for the Legislature on the Democratic ticket, and Milt Erhart, a Republican former legislator from Boise.
Younger released their names Wednesday, along with six other applicants’ names: Dale Hensley, William King, Anthony Quilici, Jim Rehder, James Solem and Robert Terence.
We received paperwork for nine applicants to replace Ken Edmunds on the State Board — including the eventual appointee, Critchfield. But last fall, Otter’s office reported receiving 24 applications to replace Edmunds, so that means 15 applications were shredded.
Erhart also applied last fall. So, paperwork from 22 applicants was destroyed, or 23 applications, depending on how you want to run the numbers.