BOISE – Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin has cut back on her request for supplementary estimates to fund the payment of external legal bills resulting from a lawsuit filed by the Idaho Press Club for access to public documents.
State records obtained by the Idaho Capital Sun also indicate that the state wrote a check last week for nearly $ 29,000 to pay the costs and attorney fees of the Idaho Press Club, which ‘a judge ordered McGeachin to cover.
McGeachin initially filed documents with the state asking for $ 50,000 to cover legal fees she incurred in connection with the lawsuit, Boise State Public Radio reported on October 1.
Since then, McGeachin has reduced the demand to $ 28,973.84, according to documents obtained by the Idaho Capital Sun. In an October 18 email to an assistant administrator in the Idaho Financial Management Division, McGeachin’s chief of staff Jordan Watters explained that the $ 28,973.84 was intended to cover the expenses of the press club.
“Now that the legal dispute has been resolved, the lieutenant governor’s office is reducing its additional request for fiscal 2023,” Watters wrote in the email. “The office of the lieutenant governor has been advised by the office of the attorney general regarding requests for public documents. His Office responded and acted on this advice. The Idaho Press Club sued the lieutenant governor’s office and the judge ruled in favor of the Idaho Press Club. The judge (Steven Hippler) ordered the lieutenant governor’s office to pay legal fees for the Idaho Press Club in connection with the recent lawsuit. Now that this issue has been resolved, we are reducing our additional claim to $ 28,973.84, which is Idaho Press Club legal fees.
Other documents obtained by the Sun show that the state sent a check to Stoel Rives LLP for $ 28,973.84 on Oct. 29 to pay the “Idaho Press Club settlement,” according to a copy of the check and the heel attached to it.
It is still unclear whether McGeachin owes legal bills to the private attorney who represented her in the lawsuit.
The Idaho attorney general’s office gave McGeachin its final legal advice on June 7, the attorney general’s office said in an Oct. 14 statement. After that, McGeachin sought outside private legal representation and the Idaho Press Club filed her complaint in July.
In response to a previous request for public documents, McGeachin’s office provided a heavily drafted copy of a legal agreement with Boyles Law. However, everything on the five-page deal, including the page numbers, has been blacked out, with the exception of lawyer Colton Boyles’ $ 250 hourly rate and his paralegal’s $ 120 hourly rate.
The Idaho Capital Sun emailed Watters on Wednesday afternoon and left a message Thursday at his office asking if McGeachin now had invoices or bill statements for his outside legal services. Watters could not be reached for comment.
In response to another request for public documents, Watters told the Idaho Capital Sun in an October 7 email, “After diligent research, we cannot find any invoices. “
The Idaho Press Club filed a lawsuit after McGeachin refused to release more than 3,000 public comments and documents related to its education task force, which met at the Idaho Statehouse this summer. McGeachin eventually released the records after a district judge ordered her to do so when she lost the case. The overwhelming majority of public comments opposed McGeachin’s task force or expressed support for Idaho public schools.
The Legislative Assembly’s Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee will consider McGeachin’s request for additional funding after the Legislative Assembly meets in January, Senator Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, said in October. If JFAC does not approve the additional request, McGeachin may have to find the money elsewhere. In his initial supplemental request, McGeachin said it could come at the expense of reducing staff hours.