Ask candidates their views on public access

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Most violations to the Open Door Law and Access to Public Records Act come from units of local government.

Meanwhile, lobbyists for local government entities (Association of Indiana Counties, Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, Indiana School Boards Association, for example) continue to oppose legislation that would allow judges to levy a civil fine for deliberate violations of those statutes.

The third pillar of the public’s right to know remains the Public Notice Advertis­ing Law.

Under the law, government units place notices in local newspapers to inform citizens of what their representatives are doing or contemplating.

The concept has come under attack as local government officials push for elimination of the publication requirement in favor of postings on government websites.

HSPA sees the fall elections as an opportunity for newspapers to put local government candidates on the record concerning their level of support for the public’s right to know.

Here are some suggested public access-related questions to ask candidates for office this fall:

• What does the Open Door Law, Access to Public Records Act and Public Notice Adver­tising Law require of local government?

• Given that citizens may be fined for civil infractions such as littering , do you support the concept that public officials could be fined by a judge who determines they have deliberately violated access laws?

• Should the state’s Public Access Counselor be allowed to inspect original documents that have been redacted prior to public disclosure to ensure that the blacking-out of information is within the parameters set by state access laws?

• Do you support the continuation of public notice advertising in newspapers, considering recent surveys in the Midwest show citizens would be less likely to see notices on government websites?

If you have questions about this statewide effort, contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.

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