Portions of a transcript from a secretly recorded meeting between Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, and Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, will be made public following a public records lawsuit filed by the Post Register against Nate.
Nate secretly recorded the private meeting with Hill, which occurred shortly after the Republican primary in May.
Judge Joel Tingey reviewed a transcript of the recording under court seal and concluded that portions of the recorded conversation constitute public records and must be released.
“It is the court’s opinion that statements made with regard to proposed or enacted legislation do relate to the conduct or administration of the public’s business,” Tingey wrote.
Tingey also ruled that portions that deal with “electioneering, campaigning, and supporting or not supporting a candidate for a particular office do not rise to the level of conducting the public’s business.”
Hill publicly supported Nate’s challenger Doug Ricks during the Republican primary, and Tingey said that was the main topic of the conversation.
Tingey ruled he would redact the portions of the transcript which do not deal with public business and release it. Tingey also indicated that most of the transcript deals with matters other than public business.
“We still haven’t seen the transcript yet, so we are still evaluating the ruling, and will need to review the transcript before we decide whether or not to appeal (in order to get more of the transcript released),” said Steve Wright, the Post Register’s attorney.
Bryan Smith, Nate’s attorney, has filed a motion asking Tingey to reconsider his decision. Instead of redacting the portions of the transcript which are not public records, Smith argued, Tingey should only release those portions of the transcript which are public.
“If this court shows redacted portions of the transcript, such redaction will improperly disclose private information such as how long the private conversation lasted, how much of the total discussion was private versus how much was subject to disclosure, and perhaps other clues into (Nate’s) private business,” Smith wrote.
Wright filed an objection to the motion Monday, arguing that releasing snippets of the conversation wouldn’t amount to disclosing the public record.
Tingey has yet to rule on Smith’s motion to reconsider, which was filed Friday.
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, previously told the Post Register that a member of the House secretly recording a private meeting with a Senate leader was “misconduct” and “conduct unbecoming” a representative.
Conduct unbecoming is a formal ethics violation that could be reviewed by the House Committee on Ethics if a member of the House makes a written complaint.
Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, Majority Caucus Chairman John VanderWoude, R-Nampa, and Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, also condemned the practice of secretly recording private meetings in prior interviews with the Post Register.