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Indiana’s Public Access Laws Open Door Law (ODL) I.C. 5-14-1.5-1 et seq. Access to Public Records Act (APRA) I.C. 5-14-3-1 et seq. Presented by: Sylvia.

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Presentation on theme: "Indiana’s Public Access Laws Open Door Law (ODL) I.C. 5-14-1.5-1 et seq. Access to Public Records Act (APRA) I.C. 5-14-3-1 et seq. Presented by: Sylvia."— Presentation transcript:

1 Indiana’s Public Access Laws Open Door Law (ODL) I.C et seq. Access to Public Records Act (APRA) I.C et seq. Presented by: Sylvia Watson Indiana State Library

2 Open Door Laws The Open Door Law (“ODL”) Ind. Code § With the exception of Executive Sessions, “all meetings of the governing bodies of public agencies must be open at all times for the purpose of permitting members of the public to observe and record them.” I.C. § (a). The ODL also requires 48-hour advanced notice of meetings. I.C. §

3 Open Door Laws What about committees? A committee must comply with the Open Door Law if the committee has been appointed directly by a governing body or its presiding officer to take official action on public business. I.C. § (b)(3).

4 Open Door Laws What is a Meeting? ◦ A gathering of a majority of the governing body for the purpose of taking official action upon public business. I.C. § (c).

5 Open Door Laws What is “Official Action?” Any one of these items constitutes official action: ◦ receiving information ◦ deliberating ◦ making recommendations ◦ establishing policy ◦ making decisions ◦ taking final action (i.e. voting) I.C. § (d).

6 Open Door Laws What is NOT a Meeting? ◦ Any social or chance gatherings not intended to avoid ODL; ◦ On-site inspections; ◦ Traveling to and attending meetings of organizations devoted to the betterment of government; ◦ Caucuses (TIP: avoid official action)  See I.C. § (c).

7 Open Door Laws Serial Meetings (ODL § 3.1) ◦ three members but less than a quorum meet ◦ subsequent meetings involve at least 2 members ◦ sum of all meeting attendees constitutes a quorum ◦ all meetings held within 7 days & concern same topic ◦ Held to take official action on public business

8 Open Door Laws Executive Sessions (I.C. § ) ◦ The instances are narrowly construed ◦ The governing body may not take final action (i.e., vote) in an executive session but may make decisions in the executive session. See Baker v. Town of Middlebury, 753 N.E.2d 67 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001).

9 Open Door Laws Some Reasons for Executive Sessions ◦ Discussion of strategy with respect to initiation of litigation or litigation that is pending or has been threatened in writing (ODL § 6.1(b)(2)(B)) ◦ To receive information about and interview prospective employees (ODL § 6.1(b)(5)) ◦ To discuss a job performance evaluation (ODL § 6.1(b)(9))

10 Open Door Laws Notice Requirements (ODL § 5) ◦ Notice requirements apply to all meetings, including executive sessions ◦ Requirements: date, time and location of meeting posted 48 hours in advance of meeting  48 hours does not include weekends or holidays  TIP: Specific time is required

11 Open Door Laws Executive Session 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.  TIP: There is no executive session instance to “discuss personnel matters” or to “meet with the Board’s attorney.”

12 Open Door Laws Meeting Notice Requirements, ctd. ◦ TIP: Notice requirement does not apply to reconvened meetings (except executive sessions) where announcement of the date, time, and place of the reconvened meeting is made at the original meeting and is recorded in the memoranda and minutes thereof and there is no change in the agenda

13 Open Door Laws Posting & 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 December 31st an annual written request for such notices.  Tip: The delivery of notice to news media is not “posting” even if the media publish the notice or advertise the meeting.

14 Open Door Laws Posting & Delivery of Notice, ctd. ◦ IF Library adopts policy: the library must also deliver notice to any person (other than news media) who delivers by December 31st an annual written request for such notices. ◦ library decides if these notices will be provided via or by publishing notice 48 hours in advance on library website

15 Open Door Laws Agenda and Memoranda (ODL § 4) ◦ The ODL does not require an agency to utilize an agenda. ◦ If the governing body utilizes an agenda, the agenda must be posted outside the meeting before the meeting begins.  The ODL does not provide a specific deadline for posting the agenda.

16 Open Door Laws Agenda and Memoranda (cont.) ◦ An agency may deviate from its posted agenda unless a specific statute or board bylaws provide otherwise. ◦ TIP: A final action adopted by reference to agenda number or item alone is void (e.g. “All in favor of item IV?”)

17 Open Door Laws Agenda and Memoranda (cont.) ◦ ODL does not require minutes ◦ Memoranda must be kept as the meeting progresses and must contain:  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

18 Open Door Laws Agenda and Memoranda (cont.) Executive Sessions – memoranda must include: ◦ Date, time and location of meeting ◦ Members present and absent ◦ the subject matter considered must be identified 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.

19 Open Door Laws Agenda and Memoranda (cont.) ◦ Remote Attendees – memoranda must include additional items:  Name of each member who was physically present at the meeting; and  Name of each member who participated in the meeting using a telephone, computer, video conferencing, or any other electronic means of communications.

20 Open Door Laws Teleconferencing or videoconferencing of meetings ◦ Generally, a member of a governing body who is not physically present but communicates by electronic or telephonic means may not vote and may not be counted present ◦ Some specific statutes may provide exceptions

21 Open Door Laws Agenda and Memoranda (cont.) ◦ 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. ◦ TIP: Draft minutes of a public meeting are subject to disclosure despite not being in final form or adopted by the governing body. ( Formal Opinion 98- FC-8 )

22 Open Door Laws A right of the public to record meetings, found at I.C. § (a) includes the right to record the meeting (audio or video). Berry v. Peoples Broadcasting Corp., 547 N.E.2d 231 (Ind. 1989). ◦ TIP: A governing body may place reasonable restrictions on the use of such equipment, but may not ban the use of audio or video recorders.

23 Open Door Laws Is Electronic Mail a Meeting? ◦ Indiana courts have not addressed the issue, but the Virginia high court ruled that communications did not constitute a meeting. Beck v. Shelton, 593 S.E.2d 195 (Va. 2004) (no simultaneity) ◦ Previous PACs have opined that is not a “meeting” under the ODL  TIP: Keep in mind the APRA

24 Access to Public Records Act (“APRA”) Ind. Code § et seq. APRA permits all “persons” access to public records. The word “Person” includes individuals, businesses, other governmental entities, etc.

25 Access to Public Records Act What is a Public Record I.C “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, chemically based media, magnetic or machine readable media, electronically stored data, or any other material, regardless of form or characteristics. Indiana Court of Appeals has added to this definition materials created for or on behalf of a public agency. “

26 Access to Public Records Act General Rule Any person may inspect and copy the public records of any public agency during the regular business hours of the agency, except as provided in section 4 (confidential records). A request (1) must identify the record with reasonable particularity; (2) may be, at the discretion of the agency, in writing or on agency form.

27 Access to Public Records Act General Rule ctd. The agency shall either make the requested copy (if the agency has reasonable access to a copy machine) or allow the person to make a copy on the agency’s equipment or on the person’s own equipment. Electronic data storage systems-- agency shall make reasonable efforts to provide copy of data to a person if medium requested is compatible with agency’s system.

28 Access to Public Records Act Library’s Responsibility Under APRA Respond to requests in person or over telephone within 24 hours of receipt Respond to mailed, faxed, or ed requests within 7 calendar days of receipt Best practice is to respond in writing to all requests

29 Access to Public Records Act Produce records in reasonable time; communication with person requesting is key If time for production will be lengthy, provide groups of records in the interim as they are available.

30 Access to Public Records Act If denying access to records; ◦ respond to applicant in writing ◦ state reason for denial with citation to authority ◦ give name and title or position of person responsible for denial. Agency bears the burden of proving the records are excepted from disclosure under the APRA or other applicable authority.

31 Access to Public Records Act Exemptions to Disclosure: I.C. § (a) Mandatory Confidential Categories ◦ Declared confidential by state statute ◦ Declared confidential by federal law ◦ Declared confidential by public agency rule

32 Access to Public Records Act 4(b) Discretionary categories: ◦ Attorney work product ◦ Inter or intra-agency advisory or deliberative material that are expressions of opinion or speculative in nature and communicated for purpose of decision-making ◦ Materials prepared for executive session (with some exceptions)

33 Access to Public Records Act 4(b) Discretionary categories ctd.: ◦ Library or archival records:  Which can be used to identify any library patron, or  Which are deposited with or acquired by a library upon a condition that the records be disclosed only  to qualified researchers after the passing of a period of years; or  after the death of person. Tip: Create a policy!

34 Access to Public Records Act 4(b) Discretionary categories ctd.: ◦ Personnel file information may be withheld, but some portions must be disclosed:  name, compensation, job title, business address, business telephone number, job description, education and training, previous work experience, dates of first and last employment;

35 Access to Public Records Act  information relating to status of formal charges against employee; and  the factual basis for a disciplinary action in which final action has been taken and that resulted in the employee being suspended, demoted, or discharged. * Personnel file must always be made available to the affected employee or applicant

36 Access to Public Records Act Fees May not charge to search or inspect records Board determines copy fee under I.C. § guidelines Library may require advance payment

37 Access to Public Records Act Common Problems Improperly requiring a subpoena from the requester Denying access to entire record when records contain partially disclosable and partially non-disclosable information Not responding within prescribed time Denying access to records but not indicating the statutory authority

38 Access to Public Records Act Common Problems, ctd. Not regularly communicating with requester when the request is voluminous and agency is taking time to review and compile records Requiring requester to indicate why he/she wants the records Assuming certain records are confidential or proprietary absent legal authority

39 APRA & ODL PAC Enforcement Provisions Formal Complaints I.C. § A person may file a complaint with the public access counselor alleging a denial of a right under APRA or ODL. The PAC sends formal complaint to the agency for response and issues a formal advisory opinion within 30 days.

40 APRA & ODL Enforcement Provisions, ctd. PAC Enforcement Authority Opinions are advisory only Library is required to cooperate with PAC in any investigation or proceeding (I.C. § ) Attorney fees, costs, and reasonable expenses of litigation are preserved for prevailing plaintiffs in a lawsuit

41 Lawsuits (I.C. § ; I.C. § ) Any person may file a lawsuit in court to compel the agency to produce a record, declare an action void, or enjoin future violations. If a person prevails in court and has received an advisory opinion from the PAC prior to going to court, the person shall be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, and other reasonable costs of litigation.

42 Lawsuits (I.C. § ; I.C. § ) As of July 1, 2012, courts may impose monetary penalties on public agencies, their officers & management level employees if the public agency violates APRA or the Open Door. The PAC must have first issued an advisory opinion stating the agency violated the public access laws before lawsuit was filed

43 Lawsuits (I.C. § ; I.C. § ) Management level employee protected if acting at the direction of officer; also It is a defense to the imposition of a civil penalty if the individual was acting in reliance of: ◦ Opinion of attorney ◦ Opinion of Indiana Attorney General

44 Public Access Counselor 402 West Washington Street, W470 Indianapolis, IN Phone: Fax: Visit for the Handbook on Indiana’s Public Access Laws, advisory opinions, and other resources.www.in.gov/pac


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