Boise State backpedals after requesting $700 for public records request

north capitol boulevard
Photo courtesy of Derek Reeves

On Aug. 25, reporter Kevin Richert published a story for Idaho Education News detailing how Boise State University threatened to charge the news publication more than $700 for 1,660 pages of emails.  

The content of the emails were in regards to political science professor Scott Yenor. The University ultimately did not charge Idaho Education News for the request. 

Yenor made headlines for his cartoonishly misogynistic comments at the National Conservatism conference back in November of 2021. In his speech, Yenor talked about the “personal and political evils” that arise from feminist ideologies. 

According to Richert’s story, the coordinator for Boise State’s public records, Robert Adelson, said Boise State has rarely charged for public records requests. Yet, because of a “rapid increase” in records requests, the university told Idaho Education News that it will bill for records in the future, when requests take more than two hours to complete.

“The University will waive the costs of our review in this instance — or rather, stated another way, the University will bear the costs instead of Idaho Education News,” Adelson wrote to Idaho Education News on July 19.

“We were concerned, it’s so unusual to get a bill like that,” Kevin Richert told The Arbiter by phone. “I think requesting and reviewing public records is accountability journalism, watchdog journalism. We should be able to do our job.”

Richert said that it’s normal for a back and forth to occur between news agencies and the groups providing record requests. However, in the case of the Yenor request, the University went straight to requesting the bill.

Richert said he filed the records request through communications, and the email they got asking for the payment came from Adelson. Richert then wrote back and said they were really troubled over the large pay request.

“We just wanted to know how the university handled this national controversy, it’s clearly in the public interest,” Richert said. “The subsequent request is going better, and I hope that’s where we’re going. I hope in the end the billing doesn’t become common practice like they said it might.”

north capitol boulevard
[Sidewalk of North Capitol Boulevard.]
Photo courtesy of Derek Reeves

According to Idaho law covered under the Public Records Act, agencies can charge after the first two hours for additional labor fees or extra costs incurred, making the initial $700 request puzzling to Idaho Education News. 

“Idaho law makes it really clear that everyone has a right to see the public records of their government and see how their taxpayer money is being spent,” President of the Idaho Press Club Betsy Russell told The Arbiter by phone. “Any public agency, including a public university is covered by Idaho Public Records Act.”

Boise State University will receive $124.6 million of taxpayer money in 2022-2023. Student tuition and fees will be $150 million, according to the Idaho Education News story.

The University has said it will ensure members of the public have access to records. 

“Boise State University’s policy related to public records has not changed and is pursuant to Idaho Code. Students or community members requesting records will not need to worry about any charges unless requests result in more than 100 pages or if the labor involved in redacting or evaluating those documents exceeds two hours,” Mike Sharp, director of media relations for Boise State, told The Arbiter in a text message. “Boise State will always work with members of the public to find ways to structure requests to avoid extra costs.”

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