Locally owned. Supported by members.

‘Celebrity over taxpayers:’ Boise State, public records, Garth Brooks and the truth

Paddles Up Poke

PUBLISHER’S OPINION

For months, I’ve gone back and forth with the office of general counsel at Boise State over public records related to Garth Brooks. Without any satisfactory outcome, I felt it’s important to tell you the audience about the dialogue.

As you know by now, Brooks will play at Albertsons Stadium this month over two nights. It is the first major concert in the history of that facility, and significant use of public resources.

Rumors broke the ‘secret’

News of the concert trickled out in some unusual ways. First, on March 13th, KBOI-AM’s Mike Kasper said he was “hearing rumors” that Brooks would play in July on the Blue. The next day, Boise State Football head coach Bryan Harsin alluded to the concert in a news conference. Kasper then followed up on March 14th with additional information: three shows on July 19th, 20th and 21st.

These events made this information clearly in the scope of public scrutiny, worthy of public knowledge.

Trying to get to the truth

- Story continues below ads -
Paddles Up Poke
ICCU Idaho

Two news outlets went to work trying to unwind what, exactly, was happening. But Boise State used dubious tactics to stymie those efforts.

First, The Idaho Statesman asked the school’s VP of Communications about the show. He gave this statement on March 15th:

“Boise State University does not have a signed facility license/rental agreement with any entertainment artist or other major event in Albertsons Stadium for this summer,” Greg Hahn said to the paper.

The Statesman later reported the school signed the contract on March 5th – making Hahn’s statement untrue at the time he made it.

With continued chatter and no official word, I submitted a public records request on April 15th asking for communication related to Brooks or any other events at Albertsons Stadium this summer.

The school waited until 44 minutes before the deadline mandated by Idaho State Code to categorically deny my request. As I reported the next morning, the school provided no documents. It cited several provisions of Idaho law – including trade secrets, attorney-client privilege and derivation of economic value.

My only legal recourse was to appeal the decision to district court. This is an expensive and lengthy procedure. Boise State knew this of course, and already planned to announce the show on May 8th.

A broad interpretation of records law

After the announcement, I followed up with Boise State’s Texie Montoya when the Statesman published some of the records I’d requested.

In this initial exchange, Montoya appeared to admit the school held back the records to protect the public announcement.

“Following the announcement, some of the deal terms no longer derived independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known,” she wrote.

As I told her later, this is wholly inappropriate. The school used a mix of exemptions in an attempt to hold these public records back. In a later email, Boise State’s Matt Wilde asserted that the law’s “trade secrets” provision allowed them to deny my request.

“The exemption relating to trade secrets in Idaho requires that two elements be met. First, that the information (a) Derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and (b) Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.”
– Matt Wilde in an email to BoiseDev

Celebrity over taxpayers

However, the concert wasn’t a secret of course. An unknown source had leaked accurate information to Mike Kasper at KBOI — and the state’s highest-paid employee commented on it. The details Kasper reported turned out to be true, though a third show hasn’t been added due, apparently, to demand.

Wilde offered to meet me in person. After a subsequent email on June 14th and a request to meet with a representative of the Idaho Press Club, Wilde has not responded.

I included Melissa Davlin, Idaho Press Club VP on the long string of emails. She works on behalf of IPC members, including BoiseDev and the Statesman, on first amendment and public records issued.

“By denying this public records request, a state-funded university favored the interests of an out-of-state celebrity over Idaho taxpayers. That’s disappointing,” Davlin wrote. “Furthermore, citing broad, questionable exemptions in that denial sends the message to the public that Boise State University isn’t committed to transparency. The Idaho Press Club hopes that isn’t true, and we look forward to sitting down with university officials to discuss our concerns.”

The problem with misleading the public

Issuing a false statement to the Idaho Statesman and withholding clearly public records to BoiseDev are very troubling actions.

As I told Wilde, and anyone who knows me can attest, I’m a Boise State fan. I attended the school, went to all three Fiesta Bowls and “bleed blue,” to borrow a phrase.

Boise State held back accurate information and records until it could make a public announcement and shape the narrative through PR and marketing.

While it’s easy to say “this is just a silly concert, what’s the big deal?,” the danger here is the precedent this sets. The school could find itself embroiled in future controversy and employ similar tactics to try and block public scrutiny of its actions.

To this point, Wilde agrees.

“I can assure you that Boise State does not consider or think it’s ‘easy to say’ this event is just a ‘silly concert’ that requires little consideration of the impacts around an announcement,” Wilde wrote. “Quite the opposite, in fact, if you consider the economic impact to the Treasure Valley.”

Love our stories? Get them delivered straight to your inbox each afternoon. Plus, support BoiseDev's independent journalism.

Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

Large student apartment project turned down after McLean breaks city council tie

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean cast the deciding vote to turn down an upscale student housing project near Boise State University.  It's the...

With drive-thrus booming, closed ice cream & burger stand will reopen in Boise

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers opened a store on Broadway Ave. in Boise. Less than two years later, shut it down.

Going up: Large new apartment project pops up on Boise Greenbelt

If you've visited the area near The Ram restaurant on Park Blvd. in Boise, you've probably noticed the large construction site.

UPDATED: Boise State will cut baseball, swimming/diving. Plan for ballpark canceled

Boise State University announced on Thursday it will discontinue its baseball and swim and dive programs. “This is one...

Popular

Popular Idaho mountain hot springs goes up for sale

If you're someone who has thought about purchasing a hot spring, now may be the time to do it. 

Stalled Anthony’s restaurant restarts, announces opening date

Seafood lovers, rejoice! After putting construction on hold this Spring, construction resumes on Anthony's new restaurant in Downtown Boise.

Photo tour: Idaho 55 work zone down to one lane with machinery, rock in narrow canyon

Late last week, we drove through the Idaho Highway 55 canyon between Smith's Ferry and Round Valley. The Idaho Transportation recently...

Proposed tall downtown building gets reworked in face of neighbor concerns

Earlier this year, BoiseDev broke news of a new 16-story building slated for Downtown Boise. Now the project's developer...

Large student apartment project turned down after McLean breaks city council tie

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean cast the deciding vote to turn down an upscale student housing project near Boise State University.  It's the...

Saltzer Health sold again, this time to major Utah health system

Saltzer Health will soon be under new ownership. Starting Oct. 1, Saltzer Health will join Salt Lake City-based...

Related

Large student apartment project turned down after McLean breaks city council tie

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean cast the deciding vote to turn down an upscale student housing project near Boise State University.  It's the...

Local home prices are rising fast. Median income is not

The gap between median home prices in Ada County and median income has widened to a gulf over the past decade. 

‘Feedback loop:’ Boise State’s Tromp, Jones to teach 2-way course on leading in the time of COVID

A new course at Boise State will feature school president Dr. Marlene Tromp. The course - Leading & Learning...

UPDATED: Boise State will cut baseball, swimming/diving. Plan for ballpark canceled

Boise State University announced on Thursday it will discontinue its baseball and swim and dive programs. “This is one...

Latest

You asked: Why is the Egyptian Theater boarded up?

If you've driven through Downtown Boise lately you might have noticed that the doors to the Egyptian Theater are boarded up.

Les Schwab Tires, Idaho town staple, gains large new owner

The stores in Les Schwab country have a new owner. The Oregon-based tire chain went on the block last...

Large student apartment project turned down after McLean breaks city council tie

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean cast the deciding vote to turn down an upscale student housing project near Boise State University.  It's the...

Sánchez proposes ordinance to separate residential & commercial rental deposits

Boise City Council is considering an ordinance to secure your rental security deposit.  City Council Member Lisa Sánchez brought...

Tamarack Resort announces pass options and changes ahead of 2020-21 season

Tamarack Resort has announced its pass options and changes for the upcoming winter season.  Passes

Stalled Anthony’s restaurant restarts, announces opening date

Seafood lovers, rejoice! After putting construction on hold this Spring, construction resumes on Anthony's new restaurant in Downtown Boise.