Q&A: College president search


Submitted by The Indianapolis Star:

Q: I’m covering Ivy Tech’s presidential search. In an executive session, the university’s presidential search committee created a list of 10 finalists for the position. They tell me that list is not a releasable public record. Is that correct?

They also plan to whittle the list to three finalists at a later date, but they also tell me that will not be public either. They basically said the first time I will get a name is when they actually select their recommended candidate to take to the Ivy Tech board. Can you provide advice?

A: The search committee does not have to release the lists of finalists to you, but they can if they choose to be more transparent.

The position of Ivy Tech president is an employee position, not an appointive position, under the state’s Open Door Law and Access to Public Records Act. (An appointive position would be the city council making an appointment to a board of zoning appeals, for example.)

This means the search committee could have an executive session to “receive information about and interview prospective employees.” See IC 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)(5).

The lists you referenced are public records as defined by the Access to Public Records Act, but that doesn’t mean they must be released.

State law presumes that public records are disclosable, but depending on the subject matter officials may keep them confidential at their discretion or be required to be kept confidential.

In this case, the search committee can protect the lists as “records specifically prepared for discussion or developed during discussion in an executive session …” See IC 5-14-3-4(b)(12).

And based on Baker v. Middlebury, they could reach a decision as to who they would like to hire in an executive session, but they would be required to take the final action (vote) on the recommendation in a public meeting. (I’m assuming this committee was created by the board of trustees, so it would be subject to the Open Door Law.)

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