A Nampa attorney last week submitted a public records request to the city of Moscow for all communications since 2016 by city officials relating to or referring to “Douglas Wilson, Ben Merkle, New Saint Andrews College, NSA, Christ Church and Logos School.”
In a letter to Moscow City Clerk Laurie Hopkins, Bruce Skaug of Skaug Law specifically asked for communications, “including, but not limited to, emails, texts, recordings, and correspondence” by the mayor, City Council, city staff, Planning and Zoning Commission members and other Moscow city commissioners mentioning those people and entities from Jan. 1, 2016, through Sept. 5, 2019.
Moscow City Supervisor Gary Riedner said Skaug, who is also the Nampa City Council president and a 1988 graduate of the University of Idaho College of Law, did not provide a reason for the request.
Skaug wrote via email to the Daily News the reason for the request and who he is representing in the request is confidential, and he is not at liberty to disclose that information.
Wilson is a pastor at Christ Church in downtown Moscow; Merkle is the president of NSA in downtown Moscow; and Logos School is a private Christian school on Baker Street in Moscow.
Moscow’s City Council and other boards and commissions have considered proposals from NSA and Logos the past few years.
Their recommendations and decisions have allowed for NSA to expand into the former Cadillac Jack’s building on North Main Street and for Logos to build a new school on North Mountain View Road. While NSA and Logos have gained approval, neither project has yet occurred.
In July, the city council decided to prohibit new schools downtown and to disallow the expansion of existing ones.
Riedner said by law, the city clerk and city attorney, who handle Moscow public records requests, cannot ask reasons for the request but can ask clarifying questions if it assists the clerk or attorney in providing the information sought.
In a letter to “Commissioners and Board Members,” Hopkins wrote since commission members use their personal emails for city business, the records search completed by the city’s Information Systems Department would not include their personal accounts. So, she asked commission members to search their emails, text messages and any other form of communication that meet the parameters Skaug set, then send those to her.
City Attorney Mia Bautista will review all records prior to releasing them to Skaug, Hopkins wrote.
City staff’s emails are public record, with a few exceptions, Riedner said.
Riedner said texts and recordings are interesting because the only city recordings he is aware of are public city meetings, such as city council meetings, and the city does not maintain staff’s texts.
“We’ll turn over whatever we have to turn over,” he said.
State law requires a three-business-day response on records requests, but the city can notify Skaug that as many as 10 days are needed.
Except for fees authorized or prescribed under other provisions of Idaho law, there is no fee for the first two hours of labor in responding to a request for public records or for copying the first 100 pages of paper records that are requested.
Riedner said the city typically asks requesters to refine their request if it is broad so the city can provide the public records faster.
“We’ll get there as quick as we can,” Riedner said. “It’s just when you have a search as broad-reaching as this covering that long of a period of time and that broad of a subject matter, it’s going to take some time to do it.”
Riedner said Bautista was out of town Friday and he will ask for her opinion on the request when she returns next week. Hopkins was also out of town Friday and will return next week, according to her work voicemail.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to email@example.com.