Q&A: School board applicants

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From the South Bend Tribune:

Q: We recently had a South Bend school board member resign. The school board is taking applications to replace her. The school board president told me there are 13 applicants, but he refused to release their names.

He said he will do so after the deadline. Does he legally have to give us the names now? If so, could you cite the code that requires this? 

A: This would fall under the Open Door Law provision for executive sessions (IC 5-14-1.5.6.1(b)(10) and a related provision under the Access to Public Records Act (IC 5-14-3-4(b)(12).

The Open Door Law provision allows a governing body to hold an executive session when considering the appointment of a public official to:

• Develop a list of prospects

• Consider applications

• Make a first cut of the candidates to narrow the field.

The Access to Public Records provision allows a public agency to keep records prepared for an executive session confidential.

But after the first cut, the governing body under both provisions is required to provide identifying information regarding the remaining candidates. They also can’t cut the number of candidates to fewer than three unless there were fewer than three to begin with.

Also note that any interviews of the candidates by the governing body must be done in a meeting open to the public.

So the president doesn’t have to give you any of the names until they have an executive session to make an initial cut of the more than 13 candidates. If he gives you the full list after the deadline, he’s doing more than he would be required to do by law.

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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