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Indiana’s Public Access Laws Heather Willis Neal Public Access Counselor Indiana Recorders Association Indiana Recorders Association April 15, 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "Indiana’s Public Access Laws Heather Willis Neal Public Access Counselor Indiana Recorders Association Indiana Recorders Association April 15, 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 Indiana’s Public Access Laws Heather Willis Neal Public Access Counselor Indiana Recorders Association Indiana Recorders Association April 15, 2008

2 2 Open Door Law Basics The governing body of a public agency has a duty to observe the policy of the Open Door Law: that official action be conducted and taken openly. The governing body of a public agency has a duty to observe the policy of the Open Door Law: that official action be conducted and taken openly. The full text of the Open Door Law can be found at Ind. Code The full text of the Open Door Law can be found at Ind. Code

3 3 Open Door Law Basics What is a meeting? What is a meeting? –A gathering of a majority of the governing body for the purpose of taking official action upon public business.

4 4 Open Door Law Basics What is not a meeting? What is not a meeting? –Any social or chance gathering not intended to avoid this chapter; –any on-site inspection of any project, program or facilities of applicants for assistance; –traveling to and attending meetings of organizations devoted to the betterment of government –a caucus;

5 5 Open Door Law Basics What is not a meeting? What is not a meeting? –A gathering to discuss an industrial or commercial prospect that does not include a conclusion as to recommendations, policy, decisions or final action on the terms of a request or an offer of public financial assistance; –An orientation of members on their role and responsibilities as public officials; or –A gathering for the sole purpose of administering an oath

6 6 Open Door Law Basics What is “official action?” What is “official action?” –receiving information –deliberating –making recommendations –establishing policy –making decisions –taking final action

7 7 Open Door Law Basics Serial meetings Serial meetings 2007 General Assembly added new language to prohibit serial meetings, where 3 members but less than a quorum meet and then subsequent meetings involve at least 2 members (and the sum of all meeting attendees constitutes a quorum) all held within 7 days to take official action on public business.

8 8 Open Door Law Basics Executive session Executive session –A meeting from which the public is excluded, except for persons necessary to carry out business –There are 13 executive session instances –The instances are narrowly construed –The governing body may not take final action in an executive session

9 9 Open Door Law Basics Common executive sessions Common executive sessions –Discussion of strategy with respect to initiation of litigation or litigation that is pending or has been threatened specifically in writing (I.C. § (b)(2)(B)) –To receive information about and interview prospective employees (I.C. § (b)(5)) –To discuss a job performance evaluation (I.C. § (b)(9))

10 10 Open Door Law Basics Time for Notice Time for Notice –The notice requirements apply to open meetings, reconvened meetings, rescheduled meetings, and executive sessions –Must post notice of date, time and location of meeting 48 hours in advance of meeting, not including Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays

11 11 Open Door Law Basics Posting or delivery of notice Posting or delivery of notice –Notice must be posted at agency’s principal office or at meeting place –The agency must also deliver notice to all news media that deliver by January 1 an annual written request for such notices. The delivery of notice to news media does not meet the “posting” requirement, even if the media publish the notice or advertise your meeting.

12 12 Open Door Law Basics Special notice requirements for executive sessions: Special notice requirements for executive sessions: –The notice must contain the same information as for an open meeting, but must also state the subject matter by specific reference to the enumerated instance(s) for which executive sessions may be held. (e.g., “to interview prospective employees pursuant to I.C. § (b)(5).”)

13 13 Open Door Law Basics Agenda and Memoranda Requirements Agenda and Memoranda Requirements –An agency is not required to have an agenda under the ODL. –If the governing body utilizes an agenda, the agenda must be posted outside the meeting at some time before the meeting – the ODL does not provide a time by when the agenda must be posted

14 14 Open Door Law Basics Agenda and Memoranda Requirements Agenda and Memoranda Requirements –Memoranda must be kept as the meeting progresses, and contain the following:  Date, time and location of meeting  Members present and absent  The general substance of all matters, proposed, discussed, or decided  A record of all votes taken, by individual members if there is a roll call

15 15 Open Door Law Basics Agenda and Memoranda Requirements Agenda and Memoranda Requirements –The memoranda are to be available within a reasonable period of time after the meeting. –The minutes, if any, are to be open for inspection and copying. –Draft minutes of a public meeting are disclosable public records despite not being in final form or adopted by the governing body.

16 16 Open Door Law Basics Special memoranda requirements for executive sessions: Special memoranda requirements for executive sessions: –Same requirements as for meetings, except the memoranda and minutes must identify the subject matter considered by specific reference to the enumerated instance or instances for which public notice was given. –The memoranda and minutes must certify no other matter was discussed.

17 17 Open Door Law Basics A right of the public to record the meeting, found at I.C. § (a) includes the right to audio or video record the meeting. A right of the public to record the meeting, found at I.C. § (a) includes the right to audio or video record the meeting. A governing body may place reasonable restrictions on the use of such equipment, but may not ban the use of audio or video recorders. A governing body may place reasonable restrictions on the use of such equipment, but may not ban the use of audio or video recorders.

18 18 Access to Public Records Act Basics “Providing persons with the information is an essential function of a representative government and an integral part of the routine duties of public officials and employees, whose duty it is to provide the information.” “Providing persons with the information is an essential function of a representative government and an integral part of the routine duties of public officials and employees, whose duty it is to provide the information.” The full text of APRA can be found at Ind. Code The full text of APRA can be found at Ind. Code

19 19 Access to Public Records Act Key definitions Key definitions –“Public Record” means any writing, paper, report, study, map, photograph, book, card, tape recording, or other material that is created, received, retained, maintained, or filed by or with a public agency and which is generated on paper, paper substitutes, photographic media,...

20 20 APRA Overview “Public record” continued: “Public record” continued: –chemically based media, magnetic or machine readable media, electronically stored data, or any other material, regardless of form or characteristics. –The Indiana Court of Appeals has added to this definition materials created for or on behalf of a public agency. Knightstown Banner, LLC v. Town of Knightstown, 838 N.E.2d 1127 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005)

21 21 Access to Public Records Act Basics “Copy” includes photocopying as well as making a digital copy using a digital camera or a hand-held scanner. “Copy” includes photocopying as well as making a digital copy using a digital camera or a hand-held scanner. “Inspect” includes the right to make notes, abstracts and memoranda, or to listen to an audiotape. “Inspect” includes the right to make notes, abstracts and memoranda, or to listen to an audiotape.

22 22 Access to Public Records Act Basics The agency may require a person to submit a request for a public record in writing, on or in a form supplied by the agency. The agency may require a person to submit a request for a public record in writing, on or in a form supplied by the agency. The agency shall either make the requested copy or allow the person to make a copy on the agency’s equipment or on the person’s own equipment. The agency shall either make the requested copy or allow the person to make a copy on the agency’s equipment or on the person’s own equipment.

23 23 Access to Public Records Act Basics An agency must make reasonable efforts to provide a copy of electronic data to a person if the medium requested is compatible with the agency’s system. An agency must make reasonable efforts to provide a copy of electronic data to a person if the medium requested is compatible with the agency’s system. If a record contains disclosable and nondisclosable information, the agency shall separate the disclosable material and make it available. If a record contains disclosable and nondisclosable information, the agency shall separate the disclosable material and make it available.

24 24 Access to Public Records Act Basics Public Agency’s Responsibility Public Agency’s Responsibility –Respond to requests made in person or over telephone within 24 hours of receipt. –Respond to mailed, faxed, or ed requests within 7 calendar days of receipt. –Respond in writing to written requests for records; best practice is to respond to all requests in writing. –Responding is not necessarily producing the record.

25 25 Access to Public Records Act Basics Agency’s Responsibility, continued Agency’s Responsibility, continued –If denying records, state reason for denial with citation to authority, and give name and title or position of person responsible for denial. –Produce records in reasonable time; communication with person requesting is key.

26 26 Access to Public Records Act Basics Exemptions to disclosure I.C. § Exemptions to disclosure I.C. § –Section 4(a) categories are confidential –Declared confidential by state statute –Required to be kept confidential by federal law –Declared confidential by rule adopted by Indiana supreme court (Administrative Rule 9) –Social security number contained in the records of a public agency

27 27 Access to Public Records Act Basics Section 4(b) are discretionary categories Section 4(b) are discretionary categories –Investigatory records of law enforcement –Attorney work product –Personnel file information, except for information that must be disclosed –Telephone number, address, and social security number of a customer of a municipally-owned utility

28 28 Access to Public Records Act Basics Fees Fees –Local agencies (cities or towns) may charge only the fee schedule adopted by the fiscal body of the agency (town or common council). –May not exceed the actual cost for providing a copy of the public record. –Actual cost is the cost of the paper and per page cost for use of the equipment.

29 29 Access to Public Records Act Basics Fees, continued Fees, continued –Agencies may require advance payment. –APRA’s general provisions on fees are superseded by a specific statute allowing higher fee. –I.C. § lists specific fees to be collected by recorders

30 30 Access to Public Records County recorders have another specific provision regarding access to records: County recorders have another specific provision regarding access to records: –I.C. § (b) requires a recorder to establish a written procedure for the public to obtain access to an original instrument in order to protect the instrument from loss, alteration, mutilation, or destruction. The recorder shall post the written procedure in the recorder's office.

31 31 Access to Public Records Act Basics Retention of records Retention of records –The APRA requires an agency to protect records from loss, alteration, mutilation, or destruction. –Each county should have a commission on public records to adopt retention schedules. The state oversight committee on public records has set general retention schedules for cities and towns which can be found at

32 32 Access to Public Records Act Enforcement Provisions A person may file a complaint with the public access counselor alleging a denial of a right under APRA. The PAC sends formal complaint to the agency for response and issues a formal advisory opinion within 30 days. A person may file a complaint with the public access counselor alleging a denial of a right under APRA. The PAC sends formal complaint to the agency for response and issues a formal advisory opinion within 30 days. A person may file a lawsuit in superior court to compel the agency to produce a record. A person may file a lawsuit in superior court to compel the agency to produce a record.

33 33 Office of the Public Access Counselor Our contact information Our contact information –402 West Washington Street, W460 Indianapolis –Fax: –Toll free: –Phone: Visit our website at for 48-page handbook and advisory opinions Visit our website at for 48-page handbook and advisory opinions


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