The following questions were submitted by the Vincennes Sun-Commercial, Greene County Daily World (Linton) and The Press-Dispatch (Petersburg):
OK to use Facebook photo with story of man charged with crime
Q: We have a guy who has been arrested and charged with beating his girlfriend to death. We pulled a picture of him off Facebook. Is there a legal problem with using the picture? It is a Profile picture that you did not have to be friends to see, if that makes a difference.
A: Here’s answer I found: According to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, any image posted with the Public setting carries the implicit acknowledgment that said photo is available for access and use by anyone — including entities not on Facebook. While permission for use is considered polite, it is not a prerequisite.I’d say you can use the photo.
Officials conducting business through private email raises questions
Q: I have a quick question concerning a Vincennes city council meeting. On the agenda is a local IT person who has been recruited by one council member to develop “business” emails for all the members. Currently, they use their own personal email accounts. This group has a long history of working via email to build consensus prior to a decision. There is often very little public discussion. This move would essentially give them all @vincennescitycouncil.com email addresses, or something to that effect. My question for you: Do you or, perhaps, the HSPA have a stance on elected officials using personal emails to conduct city business? And how do those fit into an Access to Public Records Act request?
A: Having them conduct the public’s business via a city-owned email account would be preferable because it leaves no question as to whether those emails are subject to the state’s Access to Public Records Act. Operating through their private email accounts raises that question, although the state’s Public Access Counselor Luke Britt has taken the position that if a council member uses his/her private email account to conduct business, those emails should be subject to APRA.
But there has not been any case law in Indiana to confirm that opinion. With consensus reached often through email exchanges, it’s important that citizens have the ability to access those emails so that they can under-stand the positions taken by individual council members and the reasons behind those positions. Arguments made help give voters a better picture of the performance of elected officials, more than one would get by only knowing whether the council member voted yes or no on a particular project
School board does not have to give public opportunity to speak
Q: Can the Eastern Greene School Board hold a regularly-scheduled monthly meeting and not allow time for public comment? There is a meeting next Monday and that’s the scuttlebutt …
A: The Open Door Law does not give the public the right to speak at a public meeting of a governing body of a government unit. The public has the right to “observe and record,” but not participate in governing body discussion.” So, the School Board does not have to give members of the public an opportunity to speak at a meeting. From a public relations view-point, I always suggest it’s a good idea for public officials to afford some time for public comment.
Many people assume they have the right to speak and show up at a meeting fired up about a particular issue. They are apt to get more angry if they’ve taken the time to show up and then find out they won’t be allowed to speak on the issue that attracted their attention.
Send your questions to Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, email@example.com.