Q&A: County executive session


From the News-Examiner (Connersville):

Q: Is it legal for a county board of commissioners to have an executive session to deal with a grievance filed against one of the commissioners by the unionized employees of the county highway department?

The board’s notice of executive session states, “Pursuant to IC 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)6(A), the purpose of the meeting with respect to any individual over whom the governing body has jurisdiction, is to receive information concerning an individual’s alleged misconduct.”

The commissioner who is subject of the executive session believes that the governing body does not have jurisdiction over him since he is a commissioner. He says he is getting an attorney separate from the board’s attorney, who opined that the executive session would be legal.

A: I don’t think the provision cited is appropriate in this situation.

IC 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)(6) is intended to deal with personnel issues. The commissioner is not an employee but an official whose status as an elected official cannot be altered by the county commissioners.

The language in that provision talks about allowing the governing body to discuss the individual’s status as “an employee, a student, or an independent contractor that is a doctor or school bus driver.”

There is no mention of elected officials, which I believe was intentional.

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