Q&A: Open Door Law and e-mail


From The Herald-Times (Bloomington):

Q: What are the rules for school board e-mail communication? Is there any point where board members are considered to be circumventing the Open Door Law if they’re conversing over e-mail about issues?

A: E-mail exchanges do not fall under the Open Door Law, so you don’t have any circumvention if they are using e-mail to discuss items that would normally be discussed at an open meeting.

The question to explore is whose e-mail it is.

Are they using their own message accounts or accounts set up through the school system?

If they are using personal accounts the e-mails won’t fall under the Access to Public Records Act.

But if they are using accounts set up through the school district the e-mails are subject to the public records act, and you can make a request for copies.

If they are using personal accounts but the superintendent is receiving copies on his or her school account you can make a records request of the e-mails that the administrator received from school board members.

Another avenue to explore is raising the question editorially about whether the school board is circumventing the spirit of the Open Door Law if not the letter of the law.

Conducting business electronically rather than at an open meeting does not allow the public to see any give and take and hear how alternatives to a policy decision were whittled down to the final choice.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.