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You can - but you must comment either in writing to the decision making board (not the individual member) or during the comment period within the public hearing. The Open Meetings Law of the State of Idaho prohibits ex parte contacts with decision makers. The law is meant to prevent undue influence being applied to decision makers. The public hearing process is meant to insure that everyone who reviews the public hearing can determine the basis of the decision because all comments made during that process become part of the record.
In fact, if a decision maker is basing any part of his or her decision on something not “in the record,” the decision may be overturned. If the decision maker believes that he or she cannot make an unbiased decision, the individual decision maker must withdraw from the decision making process on that matter. See the Public Service Handbook for more on conflicts of interest (page 4) (PDF).
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Legislation generally concerns governance of a large number of people and/or general categories of property or people or activities. When general legislation is applied to specific people or property, the matter becomes quasi-judicial because it is similar to how a court applies the general law to a given situation. A quasi-judicial matter generally concerns specific people, entities or properties and, therefore, needs to be handled with care so that it can be clear to everyone that any decision is based upon public discussion and public information and the record of the proceedings can be preserved.
Because there is some distrust regarding decisions made by Boards, Commissions and/or Councils regarding quasi-judicial matters, the Idaho Legislature has determined that the public has the right to comment on the proposal and to observe the discussion regarding the proposal where a quasi-judicial matter is being considered. This is meant to prevent concerns that a decision is made because of undue influence, bribery, kick-backs, and/or personal feelings or obligations regarding various parties or issues. In order to insure fairness, more structure is given to quasi-judicial matters than to legislative matters.
The amount of time given to participants at a public hearing is determined by the Chair of the meeting. Because the applicant has the burden of coming forward to the decision making body to request action, the applicant is generally given sufficient time to make the presentation showing entitlement to the action the City Code allows. It is up to the Chair of the hearing to make sure that all of the relevant issues in the public hearing are discussed and that each idea or assertion is given a fair chance to be considered.
Priority should be given to over-all fairness rather than strictly to the amount of time given to particular individuals. As part of that decision, the Chair has the discretion to limit testimony where it is redundant or not directed at the issue(s) being considered.
The staff is there to insure, to the greatest extent possible, that the established process set out in the State Code and in the Moscow City Code is followed and that all appropriate information is considered. Many times, decisions which are otherwise appropriate have to be reconsidered because the process was not followed. The laws related to process are meant to make sure that any decision is fair, based upon public evidence and discussion, and consistent and predictable. Occasionally a City staff member such as the Community Development Director or City Attorney will interrupt the proceedings in order to “keep it on track” or to explain the law or process. Please forgive any temporary inconvenience or embarrassment this may cause.
Generally speaking you should be able to speak to a member of the decision making board at any time regarding a legislative matter or a matter of general concern. If there is a quasi-judicial matter scheduled or pending before the Board, Commission or Council, the decision maker should inform you of that fact and ask you to bring your comments for the public hearing. If there is no quasi-judicial matter scheduled or pending before the decision making Board, you should feel free to discuss with that member anything you wish. If a decision maker learns something from you that later becomes part of the decision on a related matter, that member will include that fact in the public hearing.
One thing to keep in mind is that the normal consequence of inappropriately contacting a decision making Board member is the inability of that Board member to participate in a pending matter, so please be patient and respectful if the decision maker does not talk to you directly until the appropriate time. You may wish to contact City staff for direction on when you may speak to the decision makers on a particular topic.
Agendas for public hearings are published in the newspaper, posted on the first floor of City Hall, posted on this website's agenda center, and are available at the office of the City Clerk on the 3rd floor of City Hall. They also may be requested by contacting the City Clerk at 208-883-7000 or by emailing the Clerk. Past notices are available also.
City Hall(City Clerk - 3rd Floor)206 E Third StreetMoscow, ID 83843
You may always email the Mayor, email any Council member via the City Clerk, email the City Supervisor or members of the City Staff if you have questions or concerns. In addition, each month on the first scheduled City Council meeting, there is a period of time which is specifically set aside for citizens to address the Council on any unscheduled issue of importance.
The City Supervisor’s office can be emailed regarding your questions. The Community Development Director answers email inquiries regarding community development issues. The City Attorney can answer legal or procedural questions related to the City - call 208-883-7003 or email Rod Hall, Attorney.
The City generally uses the structure of Robert ’s Rules of Order but has not formally adopted them. Because the City is of a rather small and familiar size and because Robert ’s Rules of Order sometimes have the unintended consequence of over-formalizing meetings, the City has not chosen to adopt the Robert ’s Rules of Order formally. Additionally, where city governments have adopted Robert ’s Rules of Order, courts occasionally have focused more on the formal and technical aspects of the rules rather than on the idea of basic fairness in the procedure.
You may wish to review the Public Meetings Handbook (PDF) which explains, generally, how the City decision making Boards and Commissions use the Robert's Rules of Order.
You may contact the City Attorney if you have a concern regarding potential conflicts of interest, failure to honor the procedures, and/or failure to follow the City Code. The City Attorney’s office will discuss the matters with you because it is part of the City Attorney’s job to insure that the Code is followed. If the City Attorney cannot answer your question because of a conflict or an ethical concern, you will be advised of that and directed to another person who can help you. If you believe a crime has been or is being committed, you may also contact the Moscow Police Department, the Latah County Prosecutor at 208-883-2246, or the Idaho Attorney General at 208-334-2400.
Please contact the City Administration Department for information. The Mayor directs the City Supervisor regarding what agenda items appear for consideration. The City Supervisor also works closely with the City Council members and City Boards, Commissions and Committees regarding important issues.
There is no specific formula to help you to determine this; however, there are some “rules of thumb” which, in general, apply specifically to each matter.