Public access counselor will focus on education

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Joseph Hoage wants to make education the focus of his term as state public access counselor.

Government officials and average citizens often have a lack of know­ledge about what the law requires regarding access, and his role is to offer information, he said.

“I think the public access counselor should be an educator to everyone, whether a state agency or a citizen requesting documents under the law,” Hoage said. “The more you educate people on the front end, you hopefully won’t run into as many problems on the back end.”

Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed Hoage to succeed Andrew Kossack, who had served in the capacity since September 2009. He will fill the remainder of Kossack’s four-year term, which ends June 30, 2015.

Hoage, 36, said he will make responding to requests for information quickly his priority.

“It is a government agency, and the government is here for the citizens,” he said. “We need to provide that kind of customer service.”

Hoage, a lifelong Indian­apolis resident and a grad­uate of Northwest High School, has been an attorney with the Indiana Gaming Commission since 2008. Previously, he was a deputy prosecutor in the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, where he prosecuted misdemeanor, D-felony and domestic violence cases.

He had some experience responding to public access issues and dealing with matters such as redaction at the gaming commission, he said. He intends to familiarize himself with lesser-known aspects of the Access to Public Records Act and the Open Door Law.

“There are so many different intricacies,” he said.

Hoage earned his undergraduate degree from Frank­lin College and his law degree from the Valparaiso University School of Law.

He is the third public access counselor tapped by Daniels since July 2007.

His predecessor, Kossack, joined the Department of Education as an in-house attorney.

Then-Gov. Frank O’Ban­non created the office of public access counselor in 1998. The position mediates disputes over access to government documents and issues advisory opinions but has no power to enforce Indiana’s access laws.