Seminars focus on laws governing records, meetings

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At the recent kickoff session of the second annual Public Access Seminar series, nearly 250 people learned about Hoosiers’ legal rights to obtain public records or attend government meetings.

The free series is held around the state and trains citizens, government officials and attorneys on Indiana’s laws concerning public records and open meetings.

The next session will be in St. Joseph County on Tuesday, June 26, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Center for History, 808 W. Washington St., South Bend. That event is co-sponsored by the South Bend Tribune.

Last year’s inaugural Public Access Seminar series drew a combined 737 participants to eight free training sessions held around the state, and about one quarter of last year’s attendees were members of the general public – neither attorneys nor government employees.

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office, the Indiana Public Access Counselor’s Office, the Hoosier State Press Association and local newspapers sponsor this year’s Public Access Seminar series.

“Strong attendance at last year’s seminars by citizens makes it clear that Hoosiers want to know how their government officials make decisions and spend their tax dollars, but they need the tools to gain access to that valuable information,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller. “Government officials and their lawyers may need to brush up on their obligations to keep meetings open and records public and learn about the new legislation passed this year, so the free Public Access Seminar series is good training on transparency for both audiences.”

Accountability is key to a functioning democracy, said Steve Key, executive director and general counsel of the Hoosier State Press Association.

“The state’s public access laws give citizens the ability to know what government officials and employees are doing or contemplating with taxpayer dollars,” Key said.

At the kickoff sessions June 19 in Indianapolis, sponsored by The Indianapolis Star, the public has had two opportunities to attend. A morning session at the Indiana Government Center South drew nearly 250 registrants, and 60 signed up for an evening session at The Star.

At the Public Access Seminar workshops, which will be held around the state through October, experts will discuss citizens’ rights and officials’ responsibilities under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act and Indiana Open Door Law.

The panelists will include:

• Joe Hoage, Indiana public access counselor, the state official who issues opinions on whether actions violate access and meeting laws.

• Deputy Attorney General Anne Mullin O’Connor, who also serves in the attorney general’s Advisory Division and previously was the state’s first public access counselor.

• Steve Key, executive director and general counsel of the HSPA.

• Deputy Attorney General Matt Light, chief counsel of the Advisory Division of the Attorney General’s Office.

Here is an initial itinerary of additional Public Access Seminar sites and dates. Additional details will be announced soon.

• South Bend: Tuesday, June 26, Center for History, 808 W. Washington St., sponsored by the South Bend Tribune.

• Bloomington: Thursday, July 26, Ernie Pyle Hall, Indiana University, sponsored by the Center for International Media Law and Policy Studies at the IU School of Journalism.

• Sellersburg: Thursday, Aug. 16, location to be determined, sponsored by the News and Tribune (Jeffersonville)

• Auburn: Thursday, Aug. 23, National Military History Center, 5634 County Road 11A, sponsored by KPC Media Group.

• Logansport: Thursday, Sept. 6, location to be determined, sponsored by the Kokomo Tribune and Pharos-Tribune.

• Washington: Thursday, Sept. 20, location to be determined, sponsored by the Washington Times Herald.

• Portland: Thursday, Oct. 4, Arts Place, 131 E. Walnut St., sponsored by the Commercial Review.

To register, contact the Attorney General’s Office at 317.233.6143 or register online at http://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2840.htm. Attorneys who register and attend can qualify for 2.0 hours of free CLE.

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