Community Blog: The EDge

What’s the story behind those destroyed State Board applications?

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 of the applications no longer exist, according to the governor’s office. “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.”

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.

That does raise a question: Why did Otter’s office retain some of the applications — for later release, with personal information redacted — while other applications were destroyed in full because they contained “sensitive personal information?” I’ve asked Younger for a clarification.

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 David Hill of Boise, who was appointed last week. It’s unclear whether this represents all the applications to replace Terrell. Again, I’ve asked Younger for a clarification.

We received paperwork for nine applicants to replace Ken Edmunds on the State Board — including the eventual appointee, Debbie Critchfield of Oakley. But last fall, Otter’s office reported receiving 24 applications to replace Edmunds, so that means 15 applications were shredded.

Obviously, some unanswered questions here. So I’ll update and clarify as we get more information.

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

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