The Plummer-Gateway Fire Protection District paid $30,000 to settle a lawsuit with a Washington woman over a public records request.
The lawsuit, filed by Washington resident Melissa Golden in August, complained that the fire district did not release public records in a timely manner, violating the Idaho Public Records Act. The settlement, which was reached Oct. 3, agreed that the district would refund public records request fees and pay settlement proceeds. In exchange, Ms. Golden agreed to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice, as well as resign from her position at the district.
In the original filing, Ms. Golden said that she had requested a number of public records from the district in July. The initial request sought a wide range of documents, including notes made by district commissioners and secretaries during public meetings, emails of district commissioners, timesheets for district employees, intergovernmental agreements between the district and other agencies, documents showing training of district commissioners and others.
Parts of Ms. Golden’s lawsuit indicated that some of the documents referenced her specifically. The settlement indicates that Ms. Golden was employed at the fire district.
A response to the request, attached to the lawsuit, indicated that the district had received the request but would require time to collect all documents indicated, in particular because there was no time limit indicated. Ms. Golden responded that she would be willing to limit her request from Jan. 1, 2019 to the present date, then July 25.
The Plummer-Gateway district responded again July 31, acknowledging the receipt of the records, but stating that the district would require additional time and expense to collect the records. They provided the approximate cost of the work at $1,140, including staff and legal fees for recovering, copying and redacting the requested documents. As per Idaho law, the district required Ms. Golden to pay the fee before the records could be released. Through an attorney, she provided the payment.
As of late August, the documents had not been provided, and Ms. Golden filed suit with the District Attorney’s office in Coeur d’Alene. She claimed the district had violated the Idaho Public Records act by not providing the documents in a timely manner.
The lawsuit proceeded until October 3, when the fire district entered into a settlement and release agreement. As per the agreement, the district would repay the cost of the public information request, as well as a settlement of $30,000. Ms. Golden would also agree to terminate her lawsuit, resign from her position in the district and agree to not sue the district again.
In accordance with the agreement, Ms. Golden moved to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice Oct. 15.