BOISE -- A group of prominent Boise businessmen is spearheading an effort to stop the hotly-debated proposed downtown Boise Sports Park.
The latest in that push: a complaint filed with the Ada County Prosecutor's Office on October 24. The group Concerned Boise Taxpayers is asking the prosecutor to investigate violations of Idaho's open meeting law.
The group says in the complaint, "Upon receipt of the documents, we analyzed them and found emails confirming what many in the public have already suspected, which is that GBAD had been making decisions in conjunction with the City of Boise ("City") and with Capital City Development Corporation ("CCDC") regarding a new baseball stadium which is proposed to be constructed in the City with City, GBAD and CCDC funds without complying with the requirements of Idaho's open meeting laws."
The complaint goes on to state:
"The manipulation of the meeting schedule in order to avoid the requirements of having a meeting that is open to the public and for minutes to be prepared raises very serious concerns that we believe justify your office investigating what has been occurring and for your office to make appropriate findings in this matter."
The group believes what is occurring is what's known as a '"walking quorum," "to avoid the necessity of complying with the open meeting laws".
They filed a complaint with the prosecutor's office alleging the Greater Boise Auditorium District (GBAD) has been making decisions with the City of Boise and Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) on funding a new stadium without making their meetings open to the public.
The complaint cites a string of emails received in a public records request that show GBAD Executive Director Pat Rice planned meetings in October 2014 with the developer of the stadium, Greenstone Properties. The complaint alleges GBAD intentionally arranged private meetings in a certain way to avoid the requirements of open meeting laws. It is apparent from the emails that GBAD had two board members at different times meet with developers in order to avoid a quorum.
One e-mail from Rice to Greenstone Properties' Chris Schoen says:
"Since I have 5 board members and quorum requires a public meeting, I'd recommend an hour each in groups of 2 + 1. While this amounts to about 3 hours of your time, it would serve well when talking "About" the District, you have spoken "To" the District. While the District has committed to the exploratory phase of any new such development protocol would recommend you have the change to meet those who are the decisions makers. Two of my board members heard your presentation to the Tri Agency group in August, and more tomorrow, so you may not need to duplicate the meeting for them."
In a subsequent e-mail to another individual, Rice says:
"Let me try to set up a meeting for 12:30 on the 22nd, lunch maybe in our boardroom, where 2 board members can meet. Then if we can tentatively plan for another meeting at 5 for 2 more board members, that could work. As I mentioned previously, I can't have more than two at a time otherwise it is a quorum."
Under Idaho code, Open Meeting Law must be complied with when a quorum is present and the group is deliberating or making a decision. The Idaho Attorney General's opinion is the law shouldn't be evaded by holding smaller meetings with less than a quorum.
The 'Idaho Open Meeting Law Manual' from the Office of the Attorney General Lawrence Wasden specifically lays out the following:
"Therefore, it is the opinion of the Attorney General that the provisions of the Open Meeting Law must be complied with whenever a quorum of the members of the governing body of a public agency meets to decide or deliberate on matters which are within the ambit of official business. Those meetings can be formal, informal, or social. So long as a quorum is present and the intent is to deliberate or make a decision, then the meeting must be open.
"The requirement that the Open Meeting Law be complied with whenever a quorum of a governing body meets to deliberate or to make a decision should not be evaded by holding smaller meetings with less than a quorum present or by having a go-between contact each of the governing body members to ascertain his/her sentiment."
KTVB's Morgan Boydston reached out to Rice for a response and he says they didn't break the law: no district business or proposals were discussed and no deliberations or decisions were made. He says it was simply an opportunity for the developer to meet the board members.
On Monday, the Ada County Prosecutor's office told KTVB they referred the case to the Ada County Sheriff's Office to investigate the allegations outlined in the letter last week.