The following questions were submitted by the Liberty Herald, WSVX (Shelbyville), The News- Dispatch (Michigan City) and LaPorte Herald-Argus:
Sheriff’s department required to release info within 24 hours
Q: We strongly believe there was a raid on a farm in Union County last week. The tip was the Union County Sheriff’s Dept. had found 35 dead cows and calves. The Board of Animal health and county sanitarian also reportedly went on the “raid.” Everyone contacted said they cannot release any information because the investigation is ongoing. What should we do?
A: You need to take a copy of the Access to Public Records Act to the sheriff and point out I.C. 5-14-3- 5(c), which requires the department to release specific information within 24 hours of a request for assistance or action, regard- less of whether the investigation has been completed. Ask the sheriff for the “daily log or report” on the dead cattle incident over the weekend required under the Access to Public Records Act. Make sure you look over (c) yourself so that you get everything required. Let me know if you run into a problem and we’ll go to step 2.
City Council BOT committee subject to Open Door Law
Q: The mayor proposes to use a Build Operate Transfer agreement and a public-private partnership for three related projects. The mayor told me a “BOT com-mittee” will seek RFPs for the projects, chose one and pres- ent the recommendation to the City Council at a public hear- ing on April 1. BOT committee members include the mayor, a member of the Redevelopment Commission, a member of the city’s Board of Works, and the city engineer. I read IC 5-23-5-6 about BOTs. Also found an opinion by Luke Britt regarding technical review committees that might be relevant: https://www.in.gov/ pac/advisory/files/18-FC-65.pdf Question is, are the BOT committee meetings subject to Open Door? I would argue that the
A: I would argue that the BOT Committee is subject to the Open Door Law as a committee of the City Council. It has been delegated the responsibility of reviewing RFPs, negotiating with those who submitted RFPs, and making a recommendation to the City Council to act upon. It probably falls under either I.C. 5-14-1.5-2(a)(5) or I.C. 4-14- 1.5-2(b)(3). I’m not clear on who created the BOT Committee.
Either way it would be subject to the Open Door Law. Keep in mind, all of its meet- ing would not necessarily be open to the public. I.C. 5-23-5-6 says the RFPs may be kept con- fidential during the negotiating discussions. And the Open Door Law at I.C. 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)(7) allows for an executive session to discuss records classified as confidential. I read this as allowing for a closed-door session to negotiate the terms of a RFP with the offeror. There are provisions for transparency once negotiations have been completed – see I.C. 5-23-5-9 and I.C. 5-23-5-10. BOT should give notice of its meetings and they should be open unless they are conducting an executive session.
Public notice of hearing must be published 10 days in advance
Q: What is the requirement for publication of petitions for variances, appeals to the BZA etc., and how widely are these to be published?
A: I believe the answer is found at I.C. 36-7-4-920. Public notice of a hearing for an appeal or variance shall be published once at least 10 days before the date of the hearing. The government unit can place and pay for the notice or it can require the party seeking the appeal or variance to pay for it. If the government unit is paying for the notice, it’s eligible for the state-set rate.
If the public is required to pay for the notice, the newspaper can charge its normal rate. One applies the rules of IC 5-3-1-4 as to where the notice must be published. One looks to how many newspapers are located in the jurisdiction of the government unit. If there are two or more then it would have to publish in at least two. If there is only one, then the unit must publish in that newspaper. If there are none, then it must publish in either a newspaper or locality newspaper located within the county. There are no requirements to pick a daily over a weekly or a higher circulation publication over a smaller one. Notice must also be given to interested parties — as defined by the board’s rules.
Send your questions to Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, firstname.lastname@example.org.