Doctor in charge of health department should answer media questions


Send your questions to Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, or call (317) 624-4427.

The following questions were submitted by the North Vernon Sun and North Vernon Plain Dealer, Kokomo Tribune, Ferdinand News, and South Bend Tribune:

Doctor in charge of health department should answer media questions

Q: Should the doctor in charge of our county health department be able to take questions directly from me? He passed me on to a state website.

A: Under the First Amendment no one is compelled to talk to you, but as the head of the county health department, the doctor should be willing to answer questions about the county’s situation — particularly during a health emergency. If he doesn’t know the answer, I could see him referring you to the state health department, but depending upon the question that deferral might reflect a lack of being on top of what’s happening in your county.

Open Door Law gives public right to view city council meetings, not ask questions

Q: We have a city council meeting in Kokomo scheduled for tomorrow. Problem is there doesn’t seem to be any way for the public/media to view this in real time. My questions are: Isn’t the city required to allow the public access to view or at least hear the meeting in real time? What about asking questions?

A: Yes, they are required to have a process allowing the public to observe and record. That was not altered by Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Executive order.

As to asking questions, the ability for the public to ask questions during a public meeting is not required under the Open Door Law, regardless of the governor’s order.

Newspaper delivery is an essential service, disruption in mail needs to be addressed with post office

Q: Have you had reports from any other newspapers who mail that their papers weren’t delivered? We have had dozens upon dozens upon dozens of calls from subscribers who didn’t receive their newspaper last week.

It was not the ones in Ferdinand or where we drop the bags off at the post office like Jasper and Huntingburg, but ones that go through that whole process to Washington and/or Evansville (or both).

A: If I understand you correctly, The Indianapolis Recorder and the quarterly magazine are separate publications with different names and mailed under different postal permits. If my assumption is correct, then the federal Labor Department should not combine the circulations of both for purposes of the overtime rule exception of small newspapers.

Sounds like a local post office issue. I had Pat Lanman, owner of Vevay Newspapers Inc. call me a week or two ago because he had been told his newspapers were not going to be delivered, but he got that issue resolved.

You need to identify which post office is the problem and remind the postmaster that newspaper delivery is an essential service under federal law.

It obviously doesn’t make any sense for that federal designation if the post office won’t distribute newspapers.

Media should challenge refusal to identify non-essential businesses violating governor’s emergency order

Q: Today I’m writing about businesses that have received warnings from the state for operating during Gov. Holcomb’s emergency order, despite not being “essential.” The state has told another Indiana newspaper that 80 businesses received warnings but they won’t give us the list of businesses, saying the list is “investigatory.” Isn’t the warning an action that they’ve taken?

A: My initial thoughts are a warning could be an official action or could be letting a business know state had received a complaint of a violation, but either way I don’t see it as an investigatory record subject to their discretion to keep confidential.

If it’s an official action then it would be no more secret than an arrest or traffic warning citation. If it’s a note to business telling them of a complaint received, the complaint received might be investigatory, but not the note to the business, which would be more administrative in nature.

I’d challenge the state’s position. You may need to contact the state’s Public Access Counselor for his opinion