Q&A: Ordinance is 77 pages


From the city of Nappanee:

Q: If I have an ordinance that needs to be published that is 77 pages long, do I have to publish the whole ordinance, or can I publish what it is about and state that a full copy may be seen in the clerk-treasurer’s office. I am not seeing the answer definitely in I.C. 36-1-5.

A: I.C. 36-3-4-14 addresses this issue.

If the ordinance includes a penalty or forfeiture for someone who violates its provisions, then publication for your public notice advertisement is required (unless you publish your ordinances in pamphlet or book form as an alternative).

There isn’t a provision for publishing an explanatory note with an invitation for citizens to view the full ordinance in your office.

I note that you said it was a 77-page ordinance. If parts of that lengthy ordinance are inclusions of existing ordinances, you can refer to those already existing ordinances by incorporation. See I.C. 36-1-5-4.

This would trim that language out of the publication by inserting a line referencing the existing ordinance number. But if all 77 pages contain new language, then the legislature has taken the position that government units have an obligation to inform citizens through publication of the action taken by a town council or board when it includes a penalty or forfeiture.

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