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Arnold v. City of Stanley

Supreme Court of Idaho

February 26, 2015

THOMAS ARNOLD and REBECCA ARNOLD, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
CITY OF STANLEY, a municipal subdivision of the State of Idaho, Defendant-Respondent

2015 Opinion No. 23

Appeal from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Custer County. Hon. Joel E. Tingey, District Judge.

The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

Greener Burke Shoemaker Oberrecht P.A., Boise, for appellants. Fredric V. Shoemaker argued.

Moore Smith Buxton & Turcke, Chtd., Boise, for respondent. Paul J. Fitzer argued.

J. JONES, Justice. Chief Justice BURDICK, and Justices EISMANN, W. JONES and HORTON CONCUR.

OPINION

[158 Idaho 1009] J. JONES, Justice

Thomas and Rebecca Arnold appeal a grant of summary judgment in favor of the City of Stanley (City). The Arnolds filed a complaint seeking to have action taken by the City at a city council meeting declared null and void, arguing that the meeting violated Idaho's open meeting law. The district court granted the City's motion, finding the Arnolds were not adversely affected by the alleged violation of the open meeting law and, therefore, did not have standing to bring the challenge. The Arnolds timely appealed.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The Arnolds own property in Stanley, Idaho. On August 7, 2012, the City provided notice to the Arnolds and other interested parties of the date and time for three public hearings and a regular city council meeting, all scheduled to take place on August 9, 2012. The first of the three public hearings was noticed to begin at 5:00 p.m. and was for the purpose of receiving public comment on proposed Ordinance 189, the ordinance that the Arnolds allege affects their property rights.[1] The second and third hearings were noticed to begin at 5:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., respectively, and were for the purpose of public comment on matters not at issue here. The regular city council meeting was noticed to begin at 6:00 p.m.

On August 9, the first two meetings were held at their scheduled times. The third meeting began five minutes early, at 5:25 p.m., and concluded at 5:29 p.m. The regular city council meeting, scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m., commenced at 5:31 p.m. and adjourned at 6:55 p.m. (6:00 p.m. meeting). Prior to the start of the 6:00 p.m. meeting, the City did not amend the notices it had provided or otherwise notify the public that the meetings would begin earlier than scheduled. The early start time of the 6:00 p.m. meeting and the City's failure to provide amended notice of the earlier start time are the events that led to the current action. It was at the 6:00 p.m. meeting that the mayor and city council deliberated toward a decision on Ordinance 189, eventually voting to adopt the ordinance.

In the days leading up to these meetings, the Arnolds exchanged several emails with Stanley's city clerk regarding the subject matter of the meetings in question, including proposed Ordinance 189. The Arnolds requested that specific statements from these emails be read into the meeting record as their testimony during the discussion regarding Ordinance 189. According to the meeting minutes, two emails from Rebecca Arnold were read into the record during the 5:00 p.m. meeting and two were read during the 6:00 p.m. meeting. Although the Arnolds were fully aware of the agenda items to be [158 Idaho 1010] discussed at the various meetings, at no time from the outset of the first meeting at 5:03 p.m. until the final meeting adjourned at 6:55 p.m. did they attend the meeting, attempt to call the office, or otherwise participate in the meeting other than the written testimony they provided, which was read into the record. The Arnolds also conceded at oral argument that they had no intention of attending the meeting.

Following adoption of Ordinance 189, the Arnolds filed an action against the City under Idaho Code section 67-2347(6), seeking to have the ordinance declared null and void because the City held the 6:00 p.m. meeting in violation of Idaho's open meeting law by starting the meeting early and failing to provide notice of the earlier start time. The district court held the Arnolds lacked standing to bring an enforcement action because the plain language of Section 67-2347(6) allows standing for such an action only to one who is actually affected by a violation of the open meeting law, instead of being affected only by a substantive action taken at the meeting. The court granted the City's motion for summary judgment on this basis. The Arnolds timely appealed.

II.

ISSUES ON APPEAL


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