BOISE — In a response to a public records request, Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s office says it cannot find invoices or records for private, outside legal expenses that McGeachin is asking taxpayers to pay $50,000 to cover.
The Idaho Capital Sun has filed two requests under the Idaho Public Records Act seeking the release of McGeachin’s invoices for legal expenses related to the Idaho Press Club’s successful lawsuit seeking the release of 3,602 public comments regarding her education indoctrination task force.
McGeachin initially heavily redacted the public comments and then released the unredacted documents to the Idaho Capital Sun on Sept. 30 after District Judge Steven Hippler ordered McGeachin to do so.
On Aug. 31, McGeachin filed budget documents with the state’s Division of Financial Management requesting exactly $50,000 in supplemental funding to pay for “unforeseen legal bills that cannot be covered by the office’s current budget,” Boise State Public Radio reported.
“The Office of the Lt. Governor is writing this request for $50,000 supplemental due to unforeseen legal bills related to a lawsuit from the Idaho Press Club after the Attorney General’s Office failed to properly represent the Office of the Lt. Governor,” McGeachin wrote in the supplemental funding request. “Office of the Lt. Governor was forced to find outside counsel following the abrupt termination of counsel and guidance from the Attorney General’s Office after almost two months. The Office of the Lt. Governor has one of the smallest budgets in the state.”
The Attorney General’s office said in a statement Thursday that it last counseled the lieutenant governor in June, and that “the subsequent financial burden Idaho taxpayers now face” is a result of her seeking independent counsel.
Idaho media first requested
McGeachin’s legal invoices in June
The Idaho Capital Sun filed its first request for McGeachin’s legal invoices on June 15.
After not receiving any invoices following the initial request, the Idaho Capital Sun filed another request on Oct. 4 for copies of the agreement between McGeachin’s office and attorney Colton Boyles or Boyles Law and for any invoices or copies of bills from Boyles or Boyles Law since April 20.
McGeachin’s office did provide a heavily redacted copy of McGeachin agreement with Boyles law. On the document, everything in the agreement was blacked out except for Boyle’s hourly rate of $250 and the $120 per hour rate for his paralegal.
McGeachin’s office never provided any bills or invoices.
“After a diligent search, we are unable to find any invoices,” McGeachin’s chief of staff Jordan Watters wrote to the Idaho Capital Sun on Oct. 7.
Shortly after this article was published Oct. 15, McGeachin tweeted “We can’t find what we don’t have and we don’t have any invoices.”
The Idaho Capital Sun sent Watters three other messages asking for copies of the invoices and asking how McGeachin came up with the $50,000 supplemental funding request if she doesn’t have invoices, bills or records of her legal expenses.
Watters responded to the Idaho Capital Sun on Oct. 8, writing only “The Office of the Lt. Governor has responded to your request for public records.”
Watters did not respond to questions about how McGeachin came up with her $50,000 supplemental funding request.
Without invoices or other records, it may be difficult or impossible for Idaho taxpayers and legislators who vote on budget requests to know how much McGeachin spent on outside counsel.
New records the Idaho Capital Sun obtained Friday afternoon show Idaho Division of Financial Management officials also questioned McGeachin about the $50,000 supplemental request several times.
In a Sept. 17 email, principal financial management analyst David Hahn wrote to Watters telling him that Idaho law requires state officers to be represented by the attorney general. Hahn asked Watters if there was a section of Idaho Code that authorized the lieutenant governor to hire outside counsel or if there was a provision that exempted her from the requirement. Hahn also asked Watters for “invoices showing expenses that tie out to the supplemental request.”
Watters responded in an Oct. 8 email, which the Idaho Capital Sun also obtained Friday. Watters wrote that the Attorney General’s Office represented McGeachin until June 7 and then McGeachin’s office “was advised to seek outside legal counsel.” Watters did not specify who advised McGeachin’s office to seek outside legal counsel, and the Attorney General’s Office called this an independent decision on McGeachin’s part.
Watters also responded, “These are legal fees that have been ordered by the court.” In his Oct. 8 email, Watters added that invoices for McGeachin’s legal fees are “not currently available.”
The Idaho Press Club said Hippler ordered McGeachin to pay $28,973.84 in fees and costs. It is not clear what other costs or fees McGeachin would have based her $50,000 request on.
Legislature’s JFAC will review
supplemental funding requests next week
The Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, which writes the state budget, is meeting Tuesday through Thursday next week at the Idaho Capitol. Tuesday’s agenda includes a review of state agencies’ 2023 budget requests and a review of 2022 supplemental funding requests, such as McGeachin’s.
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee doesn’t have the power to enact budget laws or approve funding requests on its own. That requires the full Legislature and likely won’t happen until after the 2022 legislative session convenes Jan. 10.
This article has been edited for length. The article can be read in its entirety here.