Attendance high at series on public access

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Because of strong interest by citizens in this year’s Public Access Seminar series, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office has posted on its website a video of the training sessions on public records and open meeting laws.

This year’s second annual access series was held in 11 locations around Indiana through the summer and fall. The Hoosier State Press Association was again a sponsor.

A total of 674 people signed up to attend the trainings, which also counted as two hours of free continuing legal education for attorneys. 

Zoeller said he was pleased that one third of this year’s attendees – 219 people – were neither attorneys nor government employees but instead private citizens, and noted that more people can benefit from viewing the online video of the trainings.

“The public should not automatically trust government, and we who serve in government must earn the public’s trust every day,” Zoeller said. “Through the Public Access Seminars, we trained interested citizens on obtaining public information so they can make informed decisions about their state and communities.”

For those who could not attend one of this year’s sessions, an online training video – edited from footage of one of the seminars – is posted at the Attorney General’s web site. Click here to view it.

The Office of the Indiana Attorney General sponsored the 2012 Public Access Seminar series, along with the Office of the Public Access Counselor and HSPA.

Citizens, government officials, law enforcement officers, educators and attorneys attended the 10 free evening sessions (as well as one afternoon session), which were co-sponsored by local newspapers or academic organizations. A similar series was held in eight locations in 2011.

During the panel discussions, experts discussed citizens’ rights and officials’ responsibilities under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act and Indiana Open Door Law.

“Hoosier State Press Association was proud to be a part of this effort to inform Hoosiers of their rights and government officials’ obligations in a transparent democratic system,” said Steve Key, executive director and general counsel of the HSPA.

“At each stop, there were thoughtful questions raised by participants. It bolstered my belief that most public officials want to do what’s right and that many citizens want to be involved in how local decisions are made,” he said.

The Open Door Law, Access to Public Records Act and Public Notice Advertising Law make it possible,” said Steve Key, executive director and general counsel of the HSPA.

“The citizens of the state should never hesitate to contact the Public Access Counselor’s Office should they ever have a question regarding the Open Door Law or the Access to Public Records Act,” added Public Access Counselor Joe Hoage, whose office issues advisory legal opinions concerning public records and meetings. The Public Access Counselor’s Office can be reached at 317.234.0906 or at www.in.gov/pac.

Key and Hoage were panelists at the training sessions, along with Deputy Attorney General Anne Mullin O’Connor who was the state’s first public access counselor, Deputy Attorney General Matt Light who is chief counsel of the AG’s Office’s Advisory Division and Deputy Attorney General Misty Mercer, also with the Advisory Division. Attorney General Zoeller also spoke at some of the sessions, and he said the seminars might be scheduled again in future years based on the interest level.