Sunday, April 21, 2024

Records request lawsuit being settled by county

Staff Writer | March 29, 2024 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — A recently filed lawsuit against Bonner County is on the brink of settlement after staff realized there had been a misunderstanding regarding the recipient of a public records request.

On Wednesday, March 20, Bonner County resident Richard Cramer filed a lawsuit against the county after he claimed he never received a response to one of his public records requests. According to the lawsuit, Cramer’s legal counsel had filed a records request Feb. 28, following a special meeting held Feb. 20 by the Bonner County commissioners regarding the county’s insurance policies. The request asked for copies of the county’s liability insurance policy and any declaration pages in effect.

The same day the records request was filed, Bonner County Risk Manager Christian Jostlein allegedly sent an email response to Cramer’s counsel, saying, “That you, I forwarded the request to the BOCC office and civil, who should be responding to you.”

However, the lawsuit claimed no response was sent to Cramer or his counsel in the three-day time frame as required.

“On March 19, 2024, counsel for [Cramer] wrote an email to Louis Marshall, Christian Jostlein and the members of the board of county commissioners: ‘I have not received a response to Mr. Cramer’s public records request for the insurance policy,’” the lawsuit reads. “‘More than 10 business days have elapsed, and by statute, the request is denied. Please let me know if this is an oversight; and if so, when the response will be forthcoming.’”

The email went on to say that if the denial was not the cause of an oversight, and a response was not received within the next day, Cramer’s counsel would be considering a lawsuit. However, the lawsuit contends that to the date of the filing, no response has been sent to either Cramer or his counsel regarding the request.

“Bonner County’s refusal to provide the requested records is frivolous,” the lawsuit said.

Cramer’s counsel requested a hearing to be set on the matter within 28 days from the filing of the lawsuit. Additionally, they requested an order from the courts that the county provide all of the public records requested, “in completely unredacted form or to show cause why it should not do so.” Attorneys fees were also requested to be paid by the county as well as “all other relief that the court deems appropriate or that the interests of justice may require.”

However, the lawsuit may be dropped without further relief, after Commissioner Luke Omodt said in a follow-up email that the issue was created from a misunderstanding by county staff.

“Bonner County had responded to a nearly identical request from a nearly identical requester and believed that we had answered the public record requests in good faith,” he said. “Upon discovery of this miscommunication, the county submitted the requested documents to Mr. Cramer and agreed to pay the filing fee to settle his suit.”

Cramer received his requested documents March 22, although not completely unredacted as requested in the suit.

“Please note that under the authority of Idaho Code 74-105 (Critical Infrastructure), locations of critical infrastructure have been redacted,” the county’s response letter said.

According to Omodt, because of the prompt response from the county with all of Cramer’s requested documents, he has agreed to drop the lawsuit, provided the county pays for his filing costs, which total $233.