Q&A: Board of health letter


From the South Bend Tribune:

Q: Our local board of health will meet tonight, and one agenda item is a discussion of a response to a controversial bill on admitting privileges for abortion providers that our county council is considering tomorrow night. I asked the health department for a copy of the letter.

The health board president says this document is not a public record because “as of right now, the only item is a draft statement compiled by one BOH member, that he compiled, based upon discussions at a previous work session. Until it is approved by the BOH, he does not consider it a BOH document and therefore not public record.”

Is the document a public record?

A: Drafts of board of health records, whether they are the minutes of a meeting or a policy statement, are public records and are subject to disclosure unless the document’s subject matter requires or gives the agency the discretion to keep it confidential.

There’s no threshold of board approval before a document becomes a public record under the Access to Public Records Act.

The draft should be available for inspection and copying unless the board of health can point to a specific statutory basis for it to be kept secret.

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