Q&A: Executive session about sale of property


From the Connersville News-Examiner:

Q: Can the city’s Board of Works and Public Safety have an executive session to discuss the sale of an industrial property?

My reading is that the economic development exception to the Open Door Law applies only to economic development groups or the city’s governing body (city council) and not to a Board of Works; similarly, the exception related to purchase or lease of property would apply to a city council, but not the board of works (appointed by the mayor). What is your opinion? 

A: The Open Door Law in 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)(4) allows for executive session to conduct “interviews and negotiations with industrial or commercial prospects or agents of industrial or commercial prospects by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, … or a governing body of a political subdivision.”

The board of works is a governing body as defined by the Open Door Law, so that isn’t a problem in having an executive session. The only question I see is whether the company, which basically purchases the property and then sells or leases it to another entity, is an industrial or commercial prospect as contemplated by the statute.

It will not be making or selling any products, but it is a conduit to have the property used by an industrial or commercial prospect.

So I would question whether a discussion on whether to extend the negotiations of the sale of the property fits the statutory exception.

I would suggest the Board of Works call the state’s public access counselor, Joe Hoage, for a quick opinion on whether they can meet in executive session for this discussion.

The (b)(4) exception seems to be the only possible option for the Board of Works. Since it is selling, not purchasing, property, the board can’t use the (b)(2)(D) exception, which allows the governing body to meet in secret to discuss strategy pertaining to the purchase or lease of property by a governing body.

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