BLACKFOOT â€” Former Blackfoot High School teacher Joyce Bingham, who sued the Blackfoot School District last fall and won, has been nominated for The Max Dalton "Open Government Award."
The award, sponsored by the Idaho Newspaper Foundation, has been given yearly since 1999, "to a citizen or group judged to be an outspoken advocate of openness in either public records or public meetings on the state or local level."
Bingham was the first to publicly question a large payout of $105,428 (listed as contracted services) that she discovered last summer while reviewing the district's financial records. Bingham, along with The Post Register, went on to sue the district trustees for their refusal to reveal the purpose of the payout, ultimately winning the suit in December, exposing a $220,000 separation agreement between the district and former superintendent Scott Crane.
Bingham was nominated by Tom Grote, editor and publisher of the Star-News in McCall and executive director of the Idaho Newspaper Foundation. Grote said the news articles written about the 'Bingham vs. Blackfoot School District' case were brought to his attention by former award recipient Lee Halper of Jerome.
"Lee [Halper] sent me the articles for my reaction and began following the story," Grote said. "I thought she [Bingham] was a natural for the nomination and I took it upon myself to be the sponsor."
In his nomination of Bingham, Grote wrote: "The Case of Joyce Bingham qualifies as well for the Max Dalton "Open Government Award" as any case I have seen in the 15 years since beginning the award."
"Ms. Bingham had no personal or financial interest in the case. She pursued it because, as her attorney [Jared Harris] said, "It bothered her that that the money was unaccounted for. She had the right to get the information and insisted on getting the information. When she was turned away by the gatekeepers at the Blackfoot School District, she could have just gone home mad. Instead, she decided to pursue the case, spending her own money to hire an attorney and go to court."
Grote went on to say that the case has highlighted the need to extend the Idaho Open Meeting Law's window to file a lawsuit beyond the current 30 days beyond a violation.
Bingham's nomination was backed up with endorsements from Jared Harris, local attorney; Roger Plothow, publisher of The Post Register and Nate Sunderland, Education Reporter for The Post Register.
The winner of the award will be announced at an awards luncheon in Boise on May 4. The recipient will receive an award and a cash prize of $1,000.