The Greater Boise Auditorium District did not violate Idaho’s open meeting law in 2014 when several members of its governing board met privately with an Atlanta developer who wants to build a stadium in Boise, an Ada County prosecutor says.
As a result, the county will not sue the district, deputy prosecutor Shawna Dunn said.
Auditorium District Executive Director Pat Rice welcomed the news.
“Quite frankly, I hope this is behind us,” Rice said Monday. “My reputation and my integrity mean a lot. And it was being questioned. So I’m glad that they decided that we didn’t do anything wrong.”
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Board members acknowledged they met with developer Chris Schoen in small groups. Emails obtained by the Idaho Statesman show Rice avoided quorums of three or more members, which could have triggered a requirement that the meetings be open to the public.
Opponents of Schoen’s stadium proposal accused the district of breaking the law and asked the prosecutor’s office to investigate. At least one sheriff’s detective helped the prosecutor’s office.
Dunn said the encounters between Schoen and board members were not “meetings” as defined in state law and interpreted in Idaho cases dating back to the 1970s.
“ ‘Meeting’ means the convening of a governing body of a public agency to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision on any matter,” the law reads.
Rice said he arranged “meet-and-greet” opportunities for board members because he had heard speculation that Schoen would someday ask the auditorium district to help pay for the stadium. Board members told the Idaho Statesman in November that during those 2014 meetings, they discussed Schoen’s prior projects and his interest in building a new stadium for the Boise Hawks, which his company, Agon Sports and Entertainment, had recently acquired.
They said they did not discuss any specifics of a Boise proposal, such as where a stadium might be located or how much money he would ask the auditorium district to put up.
“I never believed that I did anything wrong,” Rice told the Statesman. “It’s good to hear that, hopefully, this is where it ends, and it reinforces my personal belief and the district’s belief that we were doing everything as above-board as we could and for the right reason.”
Even if the meetings were illegal, Dunn said, board members’ 2014 appointments with Schoen happened too long ago to allow legal action. State law requires a lawsuit to start within 180 days of an alleged violation.
Schoen’s proposal to build a stadium in Downtown Boise north of the Boise River and east of Americana Boulevard met with resistance from neighbors and Concerned Boise Taxpayers, a group chaired by former Albertsons CEO Gary Michael and Bill Ilett, a former managing partner of the Idaho Stampede, a former NBA Development League basketball team in Boise.
A new proposal emerged in early December for Schoen to build the stadium in Boise’s West End, somewhere near the corner of Main Street and Whitewater Park Boulevard, while the College of Western Idaho would open a Boise campus on the Americana property.
City spokesman Mike Journee said Monday that Schoen, property owners, the city and other stakeholders are discussing details and have not reached a consensus on the new proposal.