TWIN FALLS • A transportation committee may have been breaking open meeting laws for the past 25 years, the Twin Falls Prosecuting Attorney’s Office says.
The Greater Twin Falls Area Transportation Committee hasn’t posted an agenda or meeting notice as long as it has existed but will from now on, Chairman Gary Young said. The prosecutor’s office looked into it after Twin Falls County resident Jill Skeem contacted the office. She opposes a truck route the group has proposed to bypass Twin Falls to the south, which would run along her property.
County Prosecutor Grant Loebs sent Young a letter on Thursday, briefly explaining open meeting and public records laws and saying the committee appears to be a “public agency” as defined by the law and must follow both.
“There appears to have been some confusion about how this Committee was initially formed, and perhaps some confusion as well about how these laws apply to the Committee,” the letter says. “Please take any steps necessary to ensure that the Committee is in compliance with Idaho law.”
Young said Friday that, as far as he knows, the committee had never advertised the meetings or agenda. He said the group would now, and would have started to sooner, had members known they were required.
“To my knowledge, we have not done that, but we can start,” he said.
The committee was formed by county commissioners in 1990 to study and make recommendations on transportation issues in the greater Twin Falls area, and includes representatives from local government, highway districts and other interested stakeholders. It meets once a month at 7 a.m. at Idaho Joe’s.
The committee didn’t draw much public attention before, but it has been in the spotlight since this spring when it came out with recommendations for three potential truck routes, surprising residents and some local elected officials who weren’t aware the route was under discussion.
Keller Associates did the study that led to the recommended routes, working with a smaller steering committee that included Young and two other GTFATC members.
All three routes would go through some homes and businesses. After a presentation in May, the Twin Falls City Council preferred the option that followed 3600 North to 3300 East, which would affect 18 properties. The Kimberly City Council decided in July not to back any of the proposals.
Skeem said Friday she is glad the committee will follow the Open Meeting Law moving forward.
“To me, it’s clear that the committee should be following the state Open Meeting Law to begin with,” she said.
Skeem said people should have known about the proposed route while it was being developed, and that the steering committee’s meetings should also have been public.
“That’s why they have open meeting laws,” she said. “That’s why it’s so strict.”
Loebs told the Times-News Thursday that any violations appear to have been due to confusion as to whether the laws applied to the group, rather than malice.
“We’re investigating it and we’ll make sure it operates properly,” he said.
The idea of a route to steer truck traffic out of Twin Falls has been around for a while, and supporters say it is needed because of the area’s industrial growth.
There’s no funding for one lined up, or a route that has been decided on, and Young has said it could be several decades before it is completed, if it gets built. Before this, it would have to be added to the Twin Falls Highway District’s transportation plan.
At the moment, Young said, the transportation committee is reviewing some revisions to the study that would not choose a route but would call for further study by the highway district.