Idaho AG: BoCo ‘likely’ violated Open Meeting Law in ice rink matter

By Reader Staff

According to a legal opinion from the Idaho attorney general’s office obtained by the Reader late Feb. 16, Bonner County commissioners “likely” violated state Open Meeting Law by inadequately noticing an Oct. 26 agenda item dealing with the Sandpoint Ice Arena — an $8 million ice rink facility proposed to be built on county land adjacent to the Bonner County Fairgrounds and behind the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office facilities.

The opinion comes in response to a complaint from Sheriff Daryl Wheeler — an adamant opponent of the proposed project — lodged in a Dec. 6 email to Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall. Marshall requested that the Idaho AG’s office investigate the allegation.

A conceptual drawing of the Sandpoint Ice Arena. Courtesy image.

The Oct. 26 agenda item, which led to the board voting to enter a memorandum of understanding with the nonprofit behind the ice rink to use county land, read: “FAIR — Darcey Smith 1) Action Item: Discussion/Decision Regarding Lease Agreement, Sandpoint Community Center Corporation.”

“Arguably, the above action item does not put the public on notice that the discussion at the board meeting was going to involve an ice rink that would be built on a parking lot behind the Sheriff’s Office,” the AG’s opinion stated. “As written, the agenda item appears to involve the ‘fair.’ There is no mention of ‘ice rink,’ ‘parking lot’ or ‘property adjacent to the fairgrounds’ — all terms that would have assisted the public in identifying the probable item of discussion.”

As a result, the BOCC “likely” violated Open Meeting Law, according to AG’s office, and now has “14 days to respond publicly and either acknowledge the OML violation and state an intent to cure the violation, or state that the public agency has determined that no violation has occurred and that no cure is necessary.”

“This office recommends the board consult with its attorney and take steps to cure the OML violation as set out in this report,” the opinion concludes. “This office also recommends the board schedule a training session on the OML, within 60 days, to be conducted by its legal counsel or another attorney familiar with this area of the law.”

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