Q&A: ‘Emergency’ meeting

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From The Corydon Democrat:

Q: One of our town councils had a special meeting last week. The council did not notify us of the meeting. Town officials said they posted notice of the meetings (executive session followed by public session), but did not notify us as they were “emergency” meetings.

Does a meeting to accept the resignation of the town marshal, who was under investigation, constitute an emergency meeting?

What legal recourse, if any, do we have?  

A: The resignation of the town marshal doesn’t reach the level of “actual or threatened injury to person or property or actual or threatened disruption of the government activity” of the town council, so I don’t think it was an emergency unless there’s more to the situation than they’re sharing.

But even if it was an “emergency meeting,” the Open Door Law requires the governing body to give the media the same notice it gave its members of the meeting, so The Corydon Democrat should have been notified even if it was less than 48 hours in advance of the meeting.

You can point them to IC 5-14-1.5.5(d).

As to legal recourse, you can tell them about the error quietly, write about it in a story or editorial or get an opinion from the public access counselor.

If you don’t feel satisfied after exhausting those options you can take them to court and ask a judge to issue an injunction ordering them not to violate the law in the future.

Or the lawsuit could ask that their acceptance of the resignation be declared null and void, meaning they would have to continue paying the marshal until they act correctly.

I’m not sure a lawsuit is the way to go at this point unless this is part of a long line of violations and it appears less drastic measures would be meaningless.

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

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