Court Orders Release of Personal Information to the Press
by Shari Dovale
In April, Idaho Lt. Gov Janice McGeachin set up a task force to “examine indoctrination in Idaho education and to protect our young people from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism and Marxism.”
Members of the Idaho Press Club decided they wanted personal information on the citizens that responded to the Lt. Governor, and submitted several records requests, demanding McGeachin release this unredacted personal information.
McGeachin was not opposed to releasing the comments, but was adamant that she would redact the personal information of the people commenting.
The Idaho Press Club are part of the same folks that got so upset with Rep. Priscilla Giddings earlier this year because she shared an article about an ethics hearing that included a press release from the defense attorney that did not redact the name of the accuser in the case.
These same folks now want access to the personal and private information of hundreds of Idaho citizens, and they do not want constraints put upon them as to how they will use, or publish, this information.
The Idaho Press Club sued the Lt. Governor for access to this information. McGeachin’s comment through Facebook:
Several weeks ago, a reporter with a new liberal media outlet calling itself the Capital Sun asked us to give them the unredacted list of feedback provided to our education task force. Not only are they requesting the comments, but they are also demanding the names and email addresses of those who made the comments.
We have been making an effort to comply with their requests in a manner that is respectful of Idahoans and their personal information, but they are insistent that we give them YOUR personal information. I believe this would violate your rights and I am doing everything I can to protect your information.
Why does the media want YOUR personal information? Do they plan to release it and encourage employers and government agencies to retaliate against Idahoans who have expressed concerns about Idaho’s education system?
I believe that releasing this information would have a chilling effect on YOUR right to communicate your concerns to elected officials in Idaho. I remain committed to taking whatever legal actions are necessary to protect your personal information from being exposed by the media.
Today, the courts ruled against the Lt. Governor and ordered her to release all the personal information on these Idaho citizens.
McGeachin’s office commented in a press release:
After months of fighting to protect your data, the court has ruled that our office must release personal information on thousands of Idahoans to the media, where it has the potential to be misused to harass Idahoans who speak out on controversial issues.
Our office has always worked to act consistently with the law as written, including receiving advice and counsel from the Attorney General’s office regarding the available exemptions to shield Idahoans’ personal information from misuse.
Despite this initial collaboration, the AG’s office disavowed its earlier legal recommendations without explanation and washed its hands of the issue, apparently willing to abandon Idahoans to harassment and threats.
In response to this dereliction of duty by the AG’s office, I had no choice but to seek outside counsel to represent my office. It is the responsibility of the AG’s office to provide sound legal advice — not to misdirect state officials and then to abandon their efforts. At minimum, such behavior gives the appearance of political maneuvering rather than a conscientious performance of duty. How can any duly elected official rely on the AG’s office under these conditions?
While we disagree with the court’s interpretation, the fact remains that, based on this ruling, Idahoans are now at risk. It is necessary for the legislature to act in order to definitively establish and clarify the right of Idahoans to communicate with their elected officials without having their personal information turned over to the media for misuse.
History shows that the media today often acts as a chilling force to intimidate and silence those who think and speak outside of the approved borders of public opinion. It is for this reason that Idaho must take legislative action to shield the personal data of Idahoans when they are communicating with their elected officials.
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