Legal

Q&A: Access to police complaint

From the Tribune-Star (Terre Haute): Q: I received a response to our Access to Public Records Act request made to West Terre Haute officials regarding the termination of a police officer. The response seems to be an attempt to suppress the…

Q&A: Executive session for strategic planning

From the Corydon Democrat: Q: Does the following qualify for an executive session? “There will be a Special Executive Session meeting of the Harrison County Hospital Board of Trustees, Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 2 p.m., in the Harrison Room…

Q&A: Federal public notice rate

From The Indianapolis Star: Q: When the federal government needs to place public notice advertising in our newspaper, what rate do we charge them? Do we charge the open rate or the state-mandated, capped rate?

Q&A: Defamatory letters to the editor

From The La Porte Herald-Argus: Q: I received two letters to the editor this week that make defamatory statements about public officials. Are we opening ourselves up to legal issues if they are published?

Roadblock in access to police video

By Steve Key Hoosier State Press Association All the work during the last Indiana legislative session to improve the public’s ability to access police body and cruiser camera video may have been for naught. The problem lies with…

Q&A: Follow-up records requests

From The Banner: Q: We've asked our local department of health for a record request that includes specific dates and any applicable records created while they are compiling our records. The department said they would only honor the request…

Q&A: Charges for public records

From The News and Tribune (Jeffersonville): Q: I have a question related to a Department of Child Services case we’ve asked you about before. We requested hundreds of pages of documents from DCS regarding Alexis Arensman, a 3-year-old who…

Q&A: School surveillance video

From The Herald (Jasper): Q: We filed a request to view video from the school gym, which may show a coach acting inappropriately, and obtain a copy of it. We received a letter from the school corporation denying us access. The…

Q&A: Committee appointed by mayor

From a Portage citizen: Q: Mayor James Snyder of Portage is starting a Veterans Committee to serve the military veterans in the city. Where to I find the rules that govern such committees?

Q&A: Daily log requirements

From the Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Q: For several years now, public safety agencies in Hancock County have not been compiling daily logs. Their response to our citations of the statute has been to include slightly more information in…

Overtime rule change

Publishers have until December to determine the impact of a U.S. Department of Labor overtime rule and make necessary changes to personnel classifications. The rule released May 18 doubles the salary threshold necessary for an employer to…

Q&A: Purchasing statutes

Submitted by the Carroll County Comet (Delphi): Q: Have you heard about a purchasing statute that allows government entities to get quotes for high-dollar purchases rather than advertise for bids? The Carroll County Commissioners are…

Q&A: Comments at public meetings

Submitted by the Francesville Tribune: Q: Is there a law or ordinance at the state or local level that forbids a reporter from asking questions about an item on the agenda during open meetings of county commissioners, drainage board,…

Q&A: Detention center names

Submitted by the Hendricks County Flyer (Avon): Q: The Plainfield Police Department held a press conference yesterday to announce they had made arrests in a series of bank robberies. They announced that an 18-year-old was being held in the…

Overtime changes looming

The U.S. Department of Labor may finalize an overtime rule change in May that could dramatically impact newspaper operations. It would more than double the salary test used to determine if an employee is eligible for overtime pay. The…

Veto forces appeal to Indiana Supreme Court

The final word on private university police records is back in the hands of Indiana’s appellate court system. An attempt by the Indepen­dent Colleges of Indiana to inoculate private colleges from a recent court ruling was blocked by Gov.…

2016 Indiana General Assembly Wrap-up

Public Access The top focus for the Hoosier State Press Association during the 2016 Indiana General Assembly was H.E.A. 1019, which establishes the rules for public access to police cruiser and body camera video. Rarely does anyone get…

Q&A: College president search

Submitted by The Indianapolis Star: Q: I’m covering Ivy Tech’s presidential search. In an executive session, the university’s presidential search committee created a list of 10 finalists for the position. They tell me that list is not a…

Q&A: Accident reports

Submitted by the Churubusco News: Q: The Whitley County Sheriff’s Department refuses to make available its traffic accident report. The sheriff says they can be purchased at www.buycrash.com. I don’t want to purchase copies, just look at…

HSPA supports veto

A bill HSPA opposed throughout the 2016 legislative session – that would have allowed private university police departments to keep more records secret than public police departments – will not go into law. HSPA supports Gov. Mike Pence’s…

Private colleges win, public loses

By Steve Key Hoosier State Press Association The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that private university police departments are subject to the state’s Access to Public Records Act just like any other police department. Unfortunately, the…

Political advertising rules of the road

With the May primary election approaching, it’s a good time for advertising staffs to review political advertising requirements. Both federal and state law require that all newspaper political advertising include appropriate disclaimers…

Q&A: Ordinance passed on first reading

Submitted by The Standard (Boonville): Q: I attended a public meeting last night. An ordinance was introduced and discussed. It was never read by title and number or in its entirety. The governing body ended up passing it on first…

Q&A: Public notice in color

Submitted by The Hamilton News: Q: I have a question on a public notice ad. I have it set up to run in an 8-point font, three column format, and I turned the tables into jpegs so I could slide those in the appropriate spots. However,…

5 things amiss in body cam bill

The original language of the “body cam bill” – now up for amendment in the Senate – gives law enforcement all the incentives to keep video secret and disincentives for the public to pursue access to videos. Discretionary provision As…

Wee-hours meeting violates state law

By Steve Key Hoosier State Press Association An Indiana Court of Appeals decision reaffirms the importance for local government units to comply with the state’s Open Door Law. After dismissing all other claims in a lawsuit filed by a…

Q&A: Charter school board meeting notice

Submitted by The Herald-Times (Bloomington): Q: Seven Oaks Classical School is a charter school that just got authorized by Grace College. The school is authorized to open in the fall of 2016. I received notice of a meeting of the charter…

Q&A: Council votes on action after the fact

From The Herald (Jasper): Q: The city of Jasper is working with a developer to rehab a couple of abandoned factory buildings and turn them into rental housing. The city is contributing $410,000 to the project in various incentives and fund…

Q&A: Meeting minutes and memoranda

From the Lebanon Reporter: Q: What is included in the state access law that stipulates what must be listed in meeting minutes? The closest thing I’m finding is that the memoranda must include the date and time, members attending, record of…

Q&A: Submitted photos

From the Hendricks County Flyer (Avon): Q: We had a high school coach submit a photo to run in the paper, which we did. Once the paper came out, the photographer called us threatening to sue and demanding payment. I thought that once…

Q&A: Police report run-around

From Berne Tri-Weekly News: Q: Our local police department has contracted with BuyCrash.com and says that we have to go there to gain access to any accident reports. Is this in line with what the law allows? The county provides them to…

Q&A: Ordinance is 77 pages

From the city of Nappanee: Q: If I have an ordinance that needs to be published that is 77 pages long, do I have to publish the whole ordinance, or can I publish what it is about and state that a full copy may be seen in the…

Q&A: Official resignation letter

From the Fort Wayne Jour­nal Gazette: Q: I asked the Pence administration for a resignation letter of a staff member, but they refused to give it to me. I have gotten them in the past, but they gave me this citation: .  Is this new or…

Q&A: School budget publication

From The Rochester Sentinel: Q: Our area schools are starting to publish their budgets and have requested one run date. I pulled one from last year, and it was published twice. Are we publishing only one run date this year?

Q&A: Public notice advertising rate

From the Carroll County Comet (Delphi): Q: Does a subcontractor qualify for the govern­ment rate for public notice advertising? We received a public notice from a man with Colliers International who said he represents the state of Indiana…

Q&A: Tort claim

The following questions came from The Leader (Knox): Q: I received a docu­ment that says Re: Notice of Tort Claim. However, the document does not have a seal on it. Does that mean it has not been filed? I called my county’s clerk, and it…

Q&A: Ad opposing project

From The Herald Bulletin (Anderson): Q: We have a nonprofit entity opposing a proposed reservoir. The entity wants to run an ad against the project. With this type of advertisement, do we need to state the group’s name in the ad? For…

Q&A: Copy of ordinance draft

From the Hoosier Environmental Council: Q: Are town councils required to make available to the public a copy of an ordinance being considered at a council meeting prior to or during the meeting? A: A draft of an ordinance should be…

Q&A: School board settlement agreement

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: A school board I cover approved a settlement agreement with a former administrator during a recent open meeting. The next afternoon I’m still unable to get a copy of it. I’m getting various excuses from the…

Q&A: ID not needed to see public records

From a citizen interested in Allen County, Indiana: Q: The Allen County Sheriff’s office said I have to produce identification “to confirm my identity” to access public records. I asked the Allen County Sheriff’s attorney, J. Spencer…

Q&A: Sales disclosure forms

From the Crothersville Times: Q: Are sales disclosure forms for property transfers public records that should be available to the public for inspection and copying?

Transparency should rule body cams

By Steve Key Hoosier State Press Association A legislative interim committee will tackle whether the footage from police body cameras should be available to the public. More and more law enforcement agencies are purchasing the devices,…

Q&A: Charter school emails

From the News and Tribune (Jeffersonville): Q: Emails from a work account of a charter school principal should be public record shouldn’t they? A: HSPA worked several years ago to make sure educational records of charter schools would be…

Q&A: School district radio station

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: A local school board records its public meetings and posts the audio files on the district’s website, but it cuts the audio recording off before the public input portion for its broadcast on the district’s…

Move increases House secrecy

By Steve Key Hoosier State Press Association The leadership of the Indiana House of Rep­resentatives took an unfortunate step shortly after the end of the 2015 legislative session. They expanded the definition of “work product” in their…

Q&A: Getting records from non-public agency

From South Bend Tribune: Q: I am trying to acquire a list of the property owners in a swath of land in northern Indiana that gas and electric company NIPSCO is in the process of buying and having condemned through eminent domain for an…

Q&A: Names of homeowners in house fire

From the Lebanon Reporter: Q: The Zionsville Fire Department refuses to give us the names of the homeowners in a March 29 house fire. They are contending that we need to file a public records request for an incident report. They said they…

Q&A: Publishing property tax rates

From the North Vernon Plain Dealer and Sun: Q: I’m publishing our county property tax rates next week. In the past we’ve run the notice two weeks in both papers (Sun on Tuesday and Plain Dealer on Thursday). When the auditor emailed it…

Q&A: School employee’s email account

From the Journal and Courier (Lafayette): Q: A public school employee was accused of something and then resigned. That employee was communicating on his public email account with his attorney. In a records request, we included a request…

Q&A: Board of health letter

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: Our local board of health will meet tonight, and one agenda item is a discussion of a response to a controversial bill on admitting privileges for abortion providers that our county council is considering…

Q&A: Dinner with elected officials

From the Connersville News-Examiner: Q: There will be an invitation-only dinner hosted by private energy company NextEra Energy Resources. They have invited all Fayette County Council members, Fayette County commissioners and other…

Q&A: Economic committee and the Open Door Law

From The Brookville Democrat and The Brookville American: Q: An elected official came to me with a complaint that the county council is meeting illegally. Franklin County Council created an economic committee. It has three council members…

Keeping close eye on transparency

By Steve Key Hoosier State Press Association I’ve never had a state legislator, state agency head, or local government official say they were against government transparency or that the public did not have a right to know what its…

Q&A: Tobacco advertising

From the Evansville Courier & Press: Q: We have a local tobacco outlet that does print advertising and is considering digital advertising on our core website, courierpress.com. I think I have found that Indiana does not have…

Q&A: School performance reports

From The Herald Bulletin (Anderson): Q: Have you heard anything about the publication window for the annual school performance reports yet? It has become a roving publishing date the past few years. They ran in April last year.

Q&A: Tort claims

From the Francesville Tribune: Q: We need advice on reporting on a tort claim against multiple agencies in our county. We do not want to get into any legal trouble due to the sensitivity of it being a multiple agency tort claim. However,…

Q&A: Can commissioners pause a meeting?

From the Benton Review (Fowler): Q: Is it a violation to close a county commissioners meeting, hold a drainage board meeting, and then reopen the commissioners meeting? It was noted on their agenda posted at the commissioners’ meeting, but…

Q&A: Cost of public notices

From the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel: Q: I’m doing a story on the effort to re-establish the publication of the notice of budget hearing. Opponents cite the cost of publication as a reason to eliminate all publication of public notices. Do…

Q&A: Out-of-state records requests

From WSPA-TV (Spartanburg, S.C.): Q: I’m not familiar with Indiana’s public access laws, and I’m wondering if agencies outside of your state can request information. I saw you have a seven-day response period. I requested information from…

Q&A: Public access and the General Assembly

From the Indianapolis Business Journal: Q: I was seeking some biographical information on members of the Indiana General Assembly and encountered this: The chief counsel for the House said that the Access to Public Records Act doesn’t…

Q&A: Are TMC products litter?

From The News-Sun (Kendallville): Q: I just had a conversation with an individual who claims that according to Indiana law, KPC has been littering on his property when a contracted carrier delivers a TMC product to his driveway. Is this…

Q&A: Sub-committees and open meetings

From The Commercial Review (Portland): Q: Jay County has seen tremendous growth in the past several years in the number of confined animal feeding operations. Faced with public concern about the density of such operations and the impact on…

Q&A: Are nonprofit contracts public records?

From the Pilot News (Plymouth): Q: If a nonprofit organization signs a contract with a city – or in this case is negotiating a contract renewal – are the organization’s minutes public record? The Blueberry Festival confirmed it is in…

Q&A: Public university’s TV deal

From the Ball State Daily News: Q: I’m working to find information on the television deal between ESPN and the Mid-American Conference signed in August. In response to a public records request, Ball State University said they have no…

Secrecy surrounds police-action shooting

Twenty-eight days elapsed before authorities identified the victim of a police-action shooting near Monrovia. Law enforcement officials didn’t release the name of the individual until Brian Culp, managing editor of The Reporter-Times…

Q&A: Change in public notice advertisement

From Franklin Township Informer (Indian­apolis): Q: The newspaper had a public notice advertisement scheduled to run Aug. 20 and Sept. 3. It ran Aug. 20, but prior to running in the Sept. 3 issue the newspaper received an email with 12…

Q&A: Correcting public notice error

From Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Q: One of our school districts has published its budget figures, but the district office secretary noticed one small error. She wonders whether this necessitates having to re-publish the information, which…

Q&A: Salary records for questionable medical leave

From the South Bend Trib­une: Q: A council member has been on “medical leave” since July 28 following a drunken driving arrest. During that time, questions have been raised about whether he continues to be paid. No one with the city will…

Q&A: Announcing meetings

From the News-Times (Hartford City): Q: I have a question on one governmental body attending another governmental body’s meeting to discuss an issue. The three Blackford County commissioners plan to attend the meeting of the Hartford City…

Q&A: Reporting rights regarding the police

From the Mount Vernon Democrat: Q: Do you have any guidelines regarding the rights of reporters in police matters? Our reporters need to fully understand the laws, and I want to be sure the police understand them as well. 

Q&A: Emergency meeting?

From the Pulaski County Journal (Winamac): Q: The Pulaski County commissioners plan to hold an “emergency” meeting to discuss the implications of 27 pay periods in 2014. Is this topic eligible for an emergency meeting since it doesn’t…

Q&A: Hiring decision in executive session

From the Carroll County Comet (Delphi): Q: The Carroll County commissioners plan to meet in executive session to discuss who they want to hire as a county coordinator. They have already interviewed the candidates, and their only purpose in…

Q&A: Resignation letter request

From the Journal & Courier (Lafayette): Q: I have requested the resignation letter for an employee from a public school district, but the superintendent has denied my request and stated that the letter in question is not a public…

Q&A: Minutes of committee meetings

From NUVO (Indianapolis): Q: I’m working on a story using the minutes for Indianapolis City-County Council committee meetings. None of the committees have their minutes fully updated, and some have not posted any this year at all. In…

Q&A: Obtaining expense receipts

From the Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Q: I am having a tough time trying to get some information from the Southern Hancock school district. I have asked them for all expense receipts turned in by Superintendent Jim Halik from 2010 to…

Q&A: School financial reports

From The Paper of Montgomery County (Crawfordsville: Q: It was my understanding that the window to print school financial reports a public notices closes today, and we printed them in today’s paper. We did not see the reports printed in…

Q&A: City ordinances run once

From the North Vernon Plain Dealer and North Vernon Sun: Q: I need to publish a city ordinance prohibiting the overgrowth of grass and weeds, providing for the removal, collection and expenses if the property owner doesn’t comply. How many…

Know requirements of police daily log

By Steve Key Hoosier State Press Association Frustrated Indianapolis newspaper reporters and broadcasters met with city officials representing Mayor Greg Ballard’s office, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the office of…

Q&A: Ambulance runs and public records

From The Indianapolis Star: Q: I’m trying to obtain information about ambulance runs to certain addresses. A Carmel EMS official said she couldn’t release anything because of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). The…

Q&A: ‘Workshop’ still counts as meeting

From the Palladium-Item (Richmond): Q: The Franklin County Council and Commissioners plan to have a closed-door “workshop” to discuss the Local Option Income Tax. They apparently believe that calling it a “workshop” and not a meeting…

Records exception worth investigating

By Steve Key Hoosier State Press Association What a difference a word can make. In this case the word is “compiled.” In two recent situations, “compiled” has allowed government officials to keep records secret that otherwise would be…

Q&A: School referendum ads

From The Madison Courier: Q: Madison Consolidated Schools is having a referendum on the May ballot. I anticipate that there will be advertising placed by both sides of this issue. Are there any requirements to identify the sponsors of…

Q&A: Car lien notice

From the Chronicle-Tribune (Marion): Q: A customer wants to put a lien on a car for work done but not paid for. He said the Bureau of Motor Vehicles told him he had to run a 30-day notice with us. I am not familiar with what is required…

Q&A: Training session can be closed

From the New Palestine Press: Q: The town of New Palestine is holding a training session with its lawyer and a few county officials to discuss tax abatement. The town council is having the session to learn about tax abatement, which they…

2014 state legislative wrap-up

By Steve Key Hoosier State Press Association A recap of HSPA's work in the 2014 Indiana General Assembly: Public notice advertising Only one of six anti-public notice advertising bills was passed by the 2014 General Assembly. That bill,…

Q&A: Police log would give details about teacher

From The Elkhart Truth: A: We received a tip that a local teacher was led out of school in handcuffs. The superintendent of the school district refuses to give any information other than to say there was a “situation” involving a teacher,…

Q&A: Police school investigation

From South Bend Tribune: Q: My question regards an incident where school employees were put on administrative leave without pay after a 6-year-old girl wandered away from a South Bend school for two hours unnoticed. We hear the school…

Q&A: Political advertising requirements

From the Pulaski County Journal (Winamac): Q: There has been discussion in our office regarding political candidates and if there are regulations that newspapers must follow, such as giving equal coverage to all candidates. We also want…

Q&A: Court claims

From the North Vernon Plain Dealer and North Vernon Sun: Q: What is the requirement for legal publication of county claims? We used to publish the list of claims to be presented to the commissioners on a monthly basis. It included various…

Q&A: Attorney invoices redacted

From the Evansville Courier & Press: Q: We are trying to learn how much our local municipalities spend on attorneys. It’s looking like at least some of them want to give us invoices that are redacted – the cost is there but not the…

Q&A: Merit board appointment conditions

From cnhi’s Indiana Media Group (Anderson): Q: We received an ad seeking candidates for a merit board appointment that includes the following: “Must be a registered Republican and have voted the last three elections.” Is this OK to run?

Q&A: Ad for online gambling

From the Journal Review (Crawfordsville): Q: I need to verify the legality of the following line ad: “GET PAID TO PLAY LOTTERY - FREE online video shows how. www.lottopaysme.com/?C7740. No internet? No problem! Call toll free 877-526-6957,…

Q&A: School citations

The following questions came from South Bend Tribune: Q: I’ve been attempting to find out how many citations with real-life implications have been given to South Bend schools students, some as young as 10. I received a letter from the…

Q&A: Police settlement

From The Courier-Times (New Castle): Q: I have a question about a legal settlement involving some police officers. The case involves three officials with Henry County Community Corrections who sued a county commissioner, the former chief…

Q&A: Auto auction ads

From the Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Q: We have a customer that publishes auto auctions as public notices in our newspaper. He is asking us to email him the proof of publication but not Form 99P. Is this OK to do?

Q&A: Meeting notices

From the Mooresville-Decatur Times: Q: A Madison Township board held a meeting where votes were taken on an action and other business was discussed without a paid public notice. The newspaper also did not receive any notice of the meeting…

Q&A: Males-only classified ad?

From the Perry County News (Tell City): Q: We received an employment ad from St. Meinrad Archabbey seeking male part-time dishwashers. Since it is for a males-only archabbey, is that OK to run?

Q&A: Betty Boop in ad?

From the Mount Vernon Democrat: Q: Can we use an image of Betty Boop in a birthday ad? A: Betty Boop is a copyrighted creation. Unless you are using it to illustrate a news story, you run the risk of receiving a letter asking for…

Q&A: Grand juries

Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Q: A grand jury convened last week and delivered indictments for two Hancock County parents – one count of neglect resulting in death each. We know grand jury proceedings are sealed, but the prosecutor has told…

Q&A: School resource officers

The following questions came from the South Bend Tribune: Q: I’m going to be reporting on the expanded police powers of school resource officers. I’m hearing that students as young as fourth grade are being given misdemeanor citations for…

Q&A: Cost for public records

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: I have two questions about court records: What are the amounts governmental units may charge for copies of records? I know it’s different for different types of units. How far does the statute’s…

Q&A: Student seeks public records

From the Indiana Daily Student (Indiana University): Q: I’m working on two stories that have run into some serious complications in the matter of public records. First is a project on alcohol-related student deaths that I am working on. I…

Q&A: Memoranda availability

From the Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Q: We missed a school board meeting last night and asked for the meeting notes in order to follow up on a story today. The secretary said the minutes are not finished nor approved, so she would not…

Q&A: Police and jail logs

From The Herald-Press (Huntington): Q: I am trying to access arrest information from our local jail and daily logs from our central dispatch for city and county law enforcement. Currently, I receive jail logs perhaps two to three times a…

Q&A: Library board meeting minutes

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: I’m trying to find out what happened at a special meeting called by a local library board to potentially fire its director. I know we have a right to inspect the meeting minutes within a “reasonable” amount…

Q&A: Records from political party

From the The Republic (Columbus): Q: We had a recent situation where a city council member stepped down and the party called a caucus of precinct committee members to appoint a new council member. The Republican Party chairwoman took the…

Q&A: Coroner’s reports and records

From The Exponent (Purdue University): Q: A Purdue student died in an off-campus apartment. We asked the Tippecanoe County coroner for information related to the autopsy and received the following information: “Death was accidental due to…

Q&A: Limit on investigory records?

From the Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Q: A woman recently shot her husband to death in their home. The local prosecutor announced no charges will be filed in the case. With the case no longer under investigation, we’d like to request the…

Q&A: Records of government units

Indiana Legislative Insight (Indianapolis): Q: If a state office holder decides to release a record that the Access to Public Records Act classifies as within an agency’s discretion to do so (but one that is not subject to mandatory…

Court leaves appeals up to judges

By Steve Badger Benesch law firm A decision by the Indiana Supreme Court leaves news organizations and journalists without guidance on how to appeal subpoenas compelling them to disclose notes and other unpublished information. In a…

Q&A: Public records from previous office holder

From the Indiana Legislative Insight (Indianapolis): Q: If a state office holder decides to release a record that the Access to Public Records Act classifies as within an agency’s discretion to do so (but one that is not subject to…

Q&A: Information for executive session

From The News-Banner (Bluffton): Q: Is this adequate infor­mation for an executive session notice? “The South­ern Wells Community Schools Board of Trustees will meet in Executive Session at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 23 to discuss strategy…

Q&A: Definition of committee

From the Daily Journal (Franklin): Q: I am looking for the Open Door Law definition of a committee to determine if a specific group – two board of aviation commissioners and a mayor, granted the authority to hire and fire employees by the…

Q&A: Newspapers and the Do Not Call law

From The Herald-Times (Bloomington): Q: We are going to start a new opt-in product. We need to build a database of people who don’t currently subscribe who agree to allow us to deliver this to their homes. Can we call anyone that we want…

Q&A: Are records requests public records?

From the Indianapolis Business Journal: Q: Do public agencies in Indiana have to keep track of public records requests that they fulfill? The city of Indianapolis counsel says that would be part of her attorney work product, but I thought…

Q&A: School board serial meetings

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: A school board member is alleging that the superintendent and some board members are holding serial meetings. The purpose of the meetings, he says, has been for the superintendent to sway the board to vote…

Q&A: Executive session for contract attorney

From the Carroll County Comet (Delphi): Q: Can the Carroll County commissioners hold an executive session to discuss the contract for a county attorney? The president of the county commissioners hired a local attorney who agreed with him…

Help HSPA improve public notices

By Steve Key Hoosier State Press Association Indiana newspapers have an opportunity to improve information that local government agencies provide Hoosiers about the budget process. State Sen. Brandt Hersh­man, R-Buck Creek, asked the…

Q&A: Financial terms of deal

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: A local American Indian tribe that operates a casino has reached a deal with a local minor league baseball team for naming rights to the baseball stadium, which is municipally owned and leased to the…

Q&A: Social media and courtrooms

From The Corydon Democrat: Q: Has there been any sort of precedent set or a ruling regarding posting on social media from Indiana courtrooms? A Google search didn’t give me much information. I know audio and video recording devices…

Q&A: Conservation district need public notices?

From the Spencer Even­ing World: Q: The local soil and water conservation district holds monthly meetings. Other than simply advertising the meeting in our daily calendar of events, does notice need to be given in the form of a public…

Q&A: Redaction time

From the Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne): Q: Reporter wants access to a pardon file from the Indiana Parole Board. The board is taking a lot of time to review and redact it. Is this legal? 

Q&A: Commissioners and economic development

From the Princeton Daily Clarion: Q: Gibson County Commis­sioners publicly endorsed in June a proposed 47,000-acre economic development area along Interstate 69. They asked the Gibson County Redevelop­ment Commission to approve a…

Q&A: Ad alludes to divorce

The following questions came from the Rensselaer Republican: Q: An advertiser wants to run a full-page ad for an estate sale with lots of pictures. A large heading reads, “24 years, 2 months and 3 days of lies, and it all has to go.” (A …

Access counselor has journalism training

Indiana’s newest public access counselor worked as a reporter early in his career. Gov. Mike Pence appointed Luke Britt to the position. His first day was Aug. 26. Britt said educating the public and government officials will be his focus…

Citizens can record public meetings

By Steve Key Hoosier State Press Association The Morristown Town Council experienced a contentious meeting recently with members of the audience questioning them in what the council felt was an unruly manner. According to an audio…

Q&A: Plumbing ads and license numbers

From the Evansville Courier & Press: Q: A master plumber called to complain about plumber ads in our service directories. He said state law requires plumbers who run ads to include their license number. The majority of these ads are…

Q&A: Notice publication requirements

From CMG Worldwide Inc. of Indianapolis: Q: We have a complaint filed in Hamilton County and have not been able to successfully serve a defendant, so we want to publish a public notice. However, the defendant resides in Mount Kisco, N.Y.…

Q&A: School board appointments

From The Post & Mail (Columbia City): Q: A local school board member resigned last month. The remainder of the school board plans to vote on a replacement member to take the vacant seat until the term expires. To interview prospective…

Ag-gag falls flat but support remains

By Steve Key Hoosier State Press Association With the demise of S.B. 648 in North Carolina on July 26, all ag-gag/anti-whistleblower laws introduced in 11 state legislatures failed to become law in 2013. Included among those bills was…

Q&A: Copyright regulations

From the Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne): Q: In a follow-up on the story concerning academic freedom involving author Howard Zinn and comments by Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, we want to use some excerpts from one of Zinn’s…

Q&A: Economic development transparency

From The Salem Leader: Q: The county economic growth partnership wants its process to be more transparent. It’s a private, non-profit entity, but are there any ramifications from the Open Door Law that the partnership needs to take into…

Q&A: Reporter in executive session

The following questions came from The Daily World (Linton): Q: Can a town council allow a member of the media into an executive session? What ramifications could occur if a media member reports on what happened in the meeting? We had it…

Q&A: Nonprofits and the Open Door Law

From the Newton County Enterprise: Q: Newton County Community Services is a non-profit private organization that uses public funds to operate. They have scheduled a by-law committee meeting closed to the public and have advertised it as…

NNA: New postal reform proposed

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform kicked off a new round of debate this summer on U.S. Postal Service legislative reform. A proposal by com­mittee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, called the 2013 Postal Reform Act,…

Q&A: Withholding police reports

From the Elwood Call-Leader: Q: The Elwood mayor has been withholding police reports on non-arrest situations, such as the report of thefts, etc. Readers have contacted us expressing their frustration when the theft of their lawn mower…

Supreme Court to hear amicus brief argument

An oral argument date has been set by the Indiana Supreme Court in a case involving an amicus brief filed by the HSPA Foundation. Steve Badger of Indian­apolis law firm Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aron­off, will argue on behalf of…

Tell public about rights to hearings

By Steve Key Hoosier State Press Association Public apathy, ignorance, or lack of time – you pick – are now impacting the Indiana legislature’s approach to accountability. Since its creation, the state Department of Local Government…

Q&A: Bingo ads

From the Spencer Evening World: Q: Are veterans’ organizations and others, such as senior citizens and community centers, required to include their license numbers when publishing ads concerning bingo?

Q&A: Court proceedings start early

The following questions came from Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Q: A judge is starting hearings early, leading to our staff missing key testimony we need in order to cover things fairly. Most recently, the judge started an 11 a.m. hearing…

Q&A: Auction ads

From The Herald Bulletin (Anderson): Q: An auctioneer won’t put his auction license number in his auction ads. Is it required?

Q&A: Problem getting police reports

From the Palladium-Item (Richmond): Q: We haven’t been able to get daily incident reports from the Richmond Police Department for about a week. At first, we were told the department’s entire system was down for a database change. Once…

Wisconsin police run with redactions

By Steve Key Hoosier State Press Association A federal appeals court decision has police departments in Wisconsin redacting the names of people involved in accidents and ticketed for traffic violations. Since the 7th Circuit’s…

Speak up now for shield law

In light of the recent U.S. Department of Justice move to subpoena phone records of journalists, the time is right to call once again for passage of the Free Flow of Information Act. A reporter shield law should not be a partisan issue for…

Q&A: DNR records request

From The Indianapolis Star: Q: I’d like your advice on how to proceed with a public records request response from the Department of Natural Resources that includes a $400 finders fee. That seems awfully expensive. I think DNR is looking…

Q&A: Vague meeting agendas

From The Reporter-Times (Martinsville): Q: A local government unit releases meeting agendas that say there may or may not be a meeting after an executive session. Is this legal? At the last meeting, the members came out of an executive…

Q&A: Public information about scientific research

From a freelancer in Kokomo: Q: I am doing some research about genetically engineered foods. I am interested in knowing if details about grants to public universities are considered public information. I would like to know what grants, for…

Q&A: Is training session a meeting?

From the Perry County News: Q: Your response to a question regarding the Pulaski County commissioners in the May 9 Indiana Publisher inspired a question. The HSPA Hotline response was that an iPad training session “didn’t fit the…

Q&A: Charter school ballots

From a charter school director: Q: I am a director on the board of our local charter school. Our board president believes that, because our ballots will be distributed to members, those ballots cannot be cast in secret based on IC…

2013 General Assembly wrap-up

The 2013 General Assembly was successful for HSPA based on what was not passed by the state’s legislators. The "ag gag” bill, which would have been challenged as an infringement on the First Amendment, died in the waning hours of the last…

Q&A: Commissioner meeting for iPad tutorial

From the Pulaski County Journal (Winamac): Q: The three commissioners in Pulaski County met recently behind closed doors. They said the meeting was for an iPad tutorial. When I called them about it they invited me to attend the meeting,…

Q&A: Birth announcements

From the  Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Q: Hancock Regional Hospital has notified the Daily Reporter it no longer will provide a list of births, as it has done almost daily for many years. Now, the hospital will give new parents the option…

Q&A: Food records

From the Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Q: We are following up on a story on the potential that spoiled food made its way into a Greenfield restaurant. The Indiana State Police stopped a box truck about 30 miles from Greenfield that had a…

Q&A: Column width of public notices

From Kankakee Valley Publishing: Q: We are considering a change to our public notice advertisements page from a six-column design to nine columns. I would appreciate your opinion on this concerning effects on billing, rates, charges,…

Q&A: Courts redacting documents

From The News-Banner (Bluffton): Q: Whomever processes court documents for our local Superior Court and Circuit Court are treating them differently. One does not redact the perpetrator’s birthdate and address; the other has just recently…

Q&A: ‘No Smokers’ in ad?

From the Times-Union (Warsaw): Q: A construction business wants to run a help-wanted ad with the words, “No smokers.” Is that legal? Is there a place to go for quick reference for these types of questions?

Q&A: Legalities of tobacco advertisements

From the Rensselaer Republican: Q: Could you tell me if there are any limitations or legalities to running an ad in our daily newspaper regarding tobacco products? We have a potential to print an ad with pricing for cigarettes. Are there…

Q&A: Board of Works executive session

From News-Times (Hartford City: Q: The city Board of Works conducted an executive session to discuss a personnel issue. Immediately following the executive session, the board had an open meeting, where members voted to take no action for…

Q&A: Notice of meeting canceled, rescheduled

From the Post-Tribune (Merrillville): Q: The Porter County Council was scheduled to meet recently for an executive session for an interview with a prospective employee and a regular meeting. The meetings were canceled due to snow and…

Q&A: Publishing sheriff’s sale notices

From the Kokomo Herald: Q: I need some information on publishing sheriff’s sale notices. What are the criteria for a newspaper to be able to publish the sales? Legally, what information can a sheriff use regarding where to publish? 

Q&A: Reporting on deposition

From Herald-Republican (Angola): Q: A murder trial has started. The father of the defendant has given the newspaper a copy of his deposition with the county prosecutor in which he says he, not his son, shot the victim in a struggle over a…

Q&A: School board visit

From the North Vernon Plain Dealer: Q: The school board intends to visit a school that isn’t part of its district but one that it has an affiliation to provide certain classes and services that its students can attend and use. Do they have…

Q&A: Joint notice of school board meetings

From The News-Banner (Bluffton): Q: A school board joint notice gave the start time for an open meeting and noted an executive session would follow. The notice included the open meeting’s agenda and at the bottom gave the following…

Q&A: Access to legal settlements

From The Indianapolis Star: Q: The Indian­apolis Office of Corporation Counsel has denied the newspaper access to individual legal settlements. It considers the requested information to be attorney work product, which is privileged.…

Q&A: Ad for tobacco product

From the Spencer Evening World: Q: The newspaper has an opportunity to publish a full-page ad for a tobacco product, specifically “snuff.” Is there a legal reason why we should not do so? The company has indicated a disclaimer will be…

Q&A: Access to cororner’s report

From the  Lebanon Reporter: Q: Aren’t coroner’s reports public records? The Marion County Coroner’s office gave a report to the family, but they are refusing to give it to the paper. 

Q&A: Indiana Finance Authority records

From the Evansville Courier & Press: Q: I made a request to the Indiana Finance Authority for all correspondence referring to a business deal that has since collapsed. Even the governor said it’s dead in a statement released by his…

Q&A: Ads for private gun sales

From HNE Media (Columbus): Q: We have not accepted gun/ammunition ads placed by private party advertisers. With all of the attention on the gun issue, I would love to know how other papers are handling those requests and what liabilities…

Q&A: Votes must be conducted in public

From the Pulaski County Journal (Winamac): Q: Can you clarify whether state law requires county commissioners to take a vote in a public meeting to suspend (in this case with pay) or terminate an employee, as they have done both this week.…

Q&A: Juvenile mug shot

From the North Vernon Plain Dealer and North Vernon Sun: Q: If a juvenile is convicted of a felony (rape), is his mug shot a public record available to print in the paper? 

Q&A: School board executive session

From The Rochester Sentinel: Q: A school board announced its intention to hold an executive session under IC 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)(6) to discuss the possible misconduct of an employee. The person in question, the school treasurer, is dead –…

Q&A: Notice of public meetings inadequate

From The Star-Press (Muncie): Q: The Delaware County Board of Commissioners gave us notice of an executive session that just contains the code citation – I.C. 5-14-1.5-6. Is that sufficient notice, or do they need to include an explanation…

Q&A: Records request roadblock

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: I filed a Freedom of Infor­mation Act request with South Bend schools in October to find out how much the district spent in legal fees to develop a 30-plus page investigative packet of “evidence” that was…

Q&A: Letter and threat of litigation

From The Herald Republican (Angola): Q: I have a letter from a local attorney to the Angola city attorney concerning a proposed strip club that is trying to open in Angola. In the first paragraph, the letter says an attorney would like to…

Q&A: Executive session about sale of property

From the Connersville News-Examiner: Q: Can the city’s Board of Works and Public Safety have an executive session to discuss the sale of an industrial property? My reading is that the economic development exception to the Open Door Law…

Q&A: Replacing school board member

From the Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Q: We have a school board candidate who is vacating his board seat this month because he was elected to the county council in November. It was announced that the board had narrowed down his…

Q&A: Charges for copies

From the Evansville Courier & Press: Q: Our county clerk charges us $1 a page for copies – per what I understand is her right under state law. However, our county recorder wants to do the same thing. Does that law extend to the county…

Q&A: Obtaining search warrant

From the Palladium-Item (Richmond): Q: The newspaper is having trouble tracking down a copy of a search warrant and affidavit of probable cause. Should those be available for inspection and copying? 

Q&A: Flat rate for sheriff’s sale notices

From Dearborn County Register (Lawrenceburg): Q: The sheriff’s department has asked the newspaper to consider charging a flat rate for sheriff’s sale (mortgage foreclosure) notices. The department says it’s being done in other counties.…

Q&A: Charges for copies of records

From the Evansville Courier & Press: Q: Our county clerk charges us $1 a page for copies – per what I understand is her right under state law. However, our county recorder wants to do the same thing. Does that law extend to the county…

Q&A: Photo in advertisement

From The Republic (Columbus): Q: We have an advertiser that is going to give away an iPad and is wondering if he can use a photo of the iPad in the ad. What are the laws pertaining to photo usage for an iPad?

Q&A: City council members meet privately

From The Indianapolis Star: Q: There may be an issue of four members of the Carmel City Council reportedly meeting in private to discuss various matters involving the mayor and the Carmel Redevelopment Commission. If indeed there emerges…

Q&A: Request for school board emails

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: The Tribune requested emails between Superintendent Carol Schmidt and board President Roger Parent in the weeks prior to the board seeking to censure Vice President Bill Sniadecki. Fifteen days later, the…

IDEM backs off legislative intentions

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management hasn’t budged from its determination to eliminate the publication of Office of Air Quality federally required public notices in state newspapers – replacing publication with posting on…

Q&A: Court-ordered medical exam

From The Press-Dispatch (Petersburg): Q: Two court-ordered medical examinations of a defendant charged with murder have been completed and filed with the court. Can the newspaper get a copy of these competency reports?

Q&A: Is mug shot a public record?

From The Herald Republican (Angola): Q: A reporter requested a mug shot of a person who had been arrested. The jail staff said they could not provide the photo until the prosecutor filed formal charges. Is this not a public record as part…

Q&A: Ad for gun raffle

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: We have an advertiser who wants to run an ad about a gun raffle. Are there any Indiana laws that would be violated if we run this? 

Q&A: Private gun sales

From The News-Sun (Kendallville): Q: A private individual wants to advertise the sale of a shotgun under sporting goods. Is there any reason why newspapers should not take ads from private individuals for firearms for sale? 

Public notice advertising debate continues

Office of Air Quality moves notifications from print to online HSPA’s Steve Key outlined the elements of effective public notice recently before the state Environmental Quality Service Council. The HSPA executive director and general…

Q&A: HIPAA and high school student-athletes

From The Columbia City Post & Mail: Q: Does HIPAA prevent the newspaper from reporting on the injuries of high school students? I’m wondering about the issue of sports injuries of high school student-athletes. How specific can we be?…

Q&A: Signature on public notice ad

From the Palladium-Item (Rich­mond): Q: We’ve been asked to include the copy of an individual’s signature on a public notice advertisement. Do we need to include text stating it is an electronic signature?

Q&A: City insurance information

From the Chronicle-Tribune (Mar­ion): Q: The newspaper wants to check who receives insurance coverage from the city. Is this information we should be able to obtain? A: Citizens should be able to determine who is included under the city’s…

Public notice rates for 2013 available

The state Board of Ac­counts has released charts outlining maximum line rates allowed for public notice advertising that will go into effect Jan. 1. The charts reflect an increase of 2.75 percent from the 2012 rates. Click here to download…

Q&A: Public notice rules

From the Banner Graphic (Greencastle): Q: The Putnam Coun­ty Council ran a public notice for a real estate property tax sale in the Banner Graphic (two times) and also in a free weekly (two times). When I asked one of the council members…

Q&A: School emails

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: I am interested in getting a copy of one or more emails between a school board president and the school superintendent. The president supposedly wrote that older teachers should “be gently escorted out.”…

Q&A: Cost of political ads

From Evansville Courier & Press Q: Are there any regulations impacting what a newspaper can charge political action committees that want to run advertising in the newspaper?  

Q&A: Access to high school football sideline

From the Churubusco News: Q: Does HSPA have anything official that I could print up for press passes to put on lanyards? We ran into some access issues while videotaping a high school football game. My videographers were physically thrown…

Q&A: Public information about resignation

From the Kokomo Tribune: Q: The chancellor of Indiana University Kokomo stepped down last week. It was sudden, and the university won’t say anything about it. It’s become clear that he was forced to resign. Students and instructors told us…

Q&A: Publication of building permits

From the North Manchester News-Journal: Q: We recently attempted to begin publication of building permits in our county. The planning commission office originally denied our request until the commission’s board held a meeting. The board…

Q&A: Price of information from state police

From the Journal & Courier (Lafayette): Q: The newspaper is negoti­ating the price for traffic accident information with the Indiana State Police and its vendor, Appriss, which operates the database on traffic accidents. The Appriss…

Q&A: Denial of request for proposals

From The Indianapolis Star: Q: The Hoosier Lottery won’t provide us with access to proposals submitted by companies interested in privately managing the lottery, despite a statement in their own request for information that says they are…

Technicality hinders access to records

By Steve Key An Indiana Court of Appeals decision opens the door for future government secrecy by software design. The three-judge panel unanimously found that a request for information by a Pendleton Correctional Facility inmate lacked…

Get court updates via Twitter

The Judicial Branch of state government is using social and other digital platforms to get information to the news media and the public Anyone can sign up to receive notifications on the Indiana Courts via Twitter. Alerts about news…

Public vs. private email debate continues

By Steve Key The actions of two state agencies make the line between an elected official’s public and private records a little fuzzy. It may take an Indiana court case to bring the issue into focus. A new member of the John­son County…

Q&A: Economic development organization

From the Kokomo Tribune: Q: Tipton County elected officials appointed six people to serve on a new economic development organization. The group is primarily funded through tax dollars. The public access counselor indicated that since…

Q&A: Annexation information

The Reporter-Times (Martinsville): Q: The newspaper has requested a copy of the list of properties that will be included in a proposed annexation by the city of Martinsville. The city attorney said the city doesn’t have to provide us with…

Q&A: Teacher’s contract

From the Perry County News (Tell City): Q: The interim superintendent for Cannelton City Schools during a school board meeting recommended the school board approve his decision to cancel a teacher’s contract. Do references to a “written…

Q&A: Covering fires

From The Indianapolis Star: Q: I want to be prepared to cover fire scenes. Do reporters have a right to access the area where a fire is being fought? A: Reporters don’t have any greater rights than an average citizen when approaching…

Q&A: Caucus closed

From The Herald-Times (Bloomington): Q: A caucus of Democrat precinct committeemen has been called to name a replacement for Sen. Vi Simpson, who is running as lieutenant governor under gubernatorial candidate John Gregg. We’re getting…

Will your local officials send out emails?

Newspapers have a new way to easily test local governments’ commitment to transparency. The state legislature encouraged governing bodies to make it easier for Hoosiers to follow their actions through a law that became effective July 1.…

Q&A: Exact time for public meeting

From The Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Q: The Hancock County Board of Commissioners normally meets at 8 a.m. every Tuesday. Next Tuesday, however, they have called an executive session for 8 a.m. to discuss a personnel matter. The county…

Q&A: Search warrant withheld

From The Leader (Knox): Q: I was just at our county courthouse because I heard paperwork had been filed on a teacher being criminally charged for improper acts with a minor. I was informed all they had was the paperwork for a search…

Q&A: School board applicants

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…

Records exemption shouldn’t be abused

By Steve Key Police agencies tend to stretch the “investigatory records” exception in the Access to Public Records Act beyond its legislative intent – to the detriment of good public accountability. A case in point: Marion County Sheriff…

County stops supplying causes of death

By Steve Key Rita Ward of Evansville has been examining causes of death of people in Vanderburgh County for years. It’s not been hard because the Evansville Courier & Press has been running that information in its “On the Record”…

Q&A: School superintendent contract

From the Perry County News (Tell City): Q: During a regular school-board meeting, the interim superintendent for Cannelton City Schools distributed a proposed addendum to his contract that would extend it. He asked board members to…

Q&A: Facebook and copyright

From The Madison Courier: Q: If the newspaper uploads its photos to its Facebook page, can it still exert copyright against someone who uses the photos on another website? A: Yes. Under the terms of Facebook’s agreement with its…

Q&A: Commissioners meeting

From the Sullivan Daily Times: Q: The Democratic county chairman is complaining about a meeting between two county commissioners and a Knox County commissioner. Would that be a violation of the Open Door Law? 

Mail changes ahead

Indiana is losing three mail-processing sites as part of the U.S. Postal Service consolidation plan. Facilities in Columbus, Bloomington and Terre Haute will close during the months-long implementation period. The nationwide plan is…

Q&A: Employment ad

From the Spencer County Leader (Dale): Q: A monastery wishes to place an employment ad with the requirement that applicants be male. Is this legal? 

Keeping records secret gets expensive

By Steve Key A fuss by the Montgom­ery County Board of Commis­sioners over the cost of copies of emails indicates an attitude problem more than a flaw in the Access to Public Records Act. According to The Paper of Montgomery County…

Q&A: Late meeting notice

From Vevay Reveille-Enterprise and Switzerland County Democrat (Vevay): Q: The newspaper received notice of a meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday for an 8 a.m. Thursday meeting. Does this comply with the 48-hours requirement of the Open Door Law?  

Q&A: Governor’s emails

From The Associated Press: Q: Are emails sent by the governor on his state-issued computer exempt from the Access to Public Records Act, or can we request those? What is the rule on lawmakers and their computers? 

Q&A: Executive session minutes denied

From The Herald-Press (Huntington): Q: We’re interested in reading the minutes from executive sessions. What we are seeing doesn’t include any detail. Do we have a right to get that information? 

Q&A: Real estate advertisement

From the Kokomo Tribune: Q: We found out a couple of days ago that we had a real estate agent place a home sale ad without any type of indication in the ad that the listing was through an agent. In fact, she told us she was not a real…

Truths about postal reform

By Reed Anfinson • National Newspaper Association Now that the U.S. Senate has passed a bill, S 1789, to reform the ailing U.S. Postal Service, critics are trying to disable the bill on its way to the House of Representatives. Business…

Q&A: Names of minors in accidents

From The Paper of Montgomery County (Crawfordsville): Q: A car struck a 16-year-old, and the police chief has refused to release the name of the teen. Does he have a legal basis for keeping the name secret?  

Q&A: Notice of sheriff’s sale

From the North Vernon Plain Dealer and North Vernon Sun: Q: How many times does the public notice advertisement for a sheriff’s sale (mortgage foreclosure) have to run in a newspaper before the sale?

Q&A: Closed meeting legal?

WRTV-Channel 6 (Indian­apolis): Q: Five Indian­apolis city-county council members making up the public safety committee met with the sheriff and some of his staff to discuss how to deal with a budget shortfall. According to the clerk no…

Q&A: ‘Emergency’ meeting

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),…

Q&A: Names of bidders for government work

From the Indianapolis Business Journal: Q: The newspaper has run into a roadblock in getting the names of those who submitted proposals for the redevelopment of a half of block of Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis. The city is citing…

Q&A: Notice of meeting violation?

From the Boonville Standard: Q: After the Boonville Town Council gave us notice of a meeting, which we published, it decided to move the date forward by four days. A citizen has filed a complaint with the public access counselor alleging…

Postal Service solution: Cut costs not service

Editor’s note – U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, spoke in support of S. 1789: 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012 on March 20. Her speech follows: The Majority Leader has indicated that the Senate may soon turn to legislation to…

Q&A: Equal opportunity employer rules

The Herald Bulletin (Anderson): Q: A human resources representative told me that in employment ads “Equal opportunity employer” must be spelled out rather than written as “EOE” to count as protection for the employer. Is this correct?

Q&A: Police merit board

From The Evansville Courier & Press: Q: An officer has been accused of being involved in a hit-and-run accident. He was ticketed, and the police department’s merit commission has suspended him without pay for 30 days. The department…

Q&A: Proofs of publication

From The Courier-Times (New Castle): Q: Are there Indiana laws that specify how many proofs of publication we have to provide to our legal advertisers? Our sister paper in Mich­igan provides one affidavit per public notice advertisement,…

Measure adds teeth to access laws

Gov. Mitch Daniels signed House Enacted Act 1003 into law on Monday, March 19, with supporters of teeth for public access laws in attendance. The new law allows judges to impose civil fines of up to $100 ($500 for repeat offenders) on…

Efforts bring victory for public access

By Steve Key The legislative process is a ride that can’t be replicated by Disney World. In short order the mood can go from sky-high to basement-low. As someone who looks out for the interests of state newspapers and the public’s right…

Attorney general makes right call

The Indiana attorney general’s intervention in the South Bend Tribune’s recent prior restraint case was a victory for the First Amendment and state newspapers, said Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel. The Tribune won…

Legislation strengthens public access laws

The General Assembly’s passage of legislation that allows civil fines for public officials who deliberately violate access laws comes after years of effort by friends of the public’s right to know. Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, filed…

Q&A: Council members meet before taking office

From the Sul­livan Daily Times: Q: The Dugger Town Council election last fall brought in three new members, entirely replacing the old board. The new council members got together before January (not in a public meeting) and made a decision…

Q&A: School superintendent finalists

From the Vevay Reveille-Enterprise and Switzerland County Democrat (Vevay): Q: The school board is interviewing candidates for superintendent. Are they required to make their three finalists known to the public?

Q&A: Public notice boundary requirement

From the Carroll County Comet (Delphi): Q: What is the code section that states county public notices must be published in a newspaper within its boundary? The local zoning board did not get a 10-day notice of a public hearing to us until…

Q&A: Getting mug shots

From The Herald-Times (Bloomington): Q: The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office tells us that they do not have to provide mug shots outside of normal business hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. I don’t see anything in the Access…

Q&A: Records request work-around

From the Pharos-Tribune (Logansport): Q: We asked the city and police department for information about a police officer who was put on sick leave for a back injury. Shortly after that, he was disciplined by the assistant police chief,…

Q&A: Liability regarding court record

From the Switzerland County Democrat (Vevay): Q: We printed a Henry Circuit Court No. 3 item about a boy sentenced to pay a fine for unlawful possession of tobacco. The boy apparently was 15. Do we have any liability for printing the…

Q&A: Private cell phone used by public worker

From the city of Indianapolis: Q: If the city gives an employee a stipend to help cover the cost of a private cell phone because the employee also uses it for work-related calls, would that subject the phone records to the Access to Public…

Q&A: Family Education Rights and Privacy Act

From The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne): Q: A 9-year-old girl was murdered in Fort Wayne. The newspaper would like to get her school enrollment record to get an idea of when her family moved here. The district public information officer said…

Q&A: Administrative town council meeting

From The Herald-Press (Huntington): Q: Could you interpret what councilman Mike Rohler means when he says the Andrews Town Council can call an “administrative meeting” without having to give notice? Wouldn’t an administrative meeting be…

Q&A: Redaction justification

From the News and Tribune (Jeffersonville): Q: Last week the Jeffersonville Re­­development Commission received and subsequently voted on a proposal for archaeological work at an area park. The vote was taken during a public meeting, but…

Q&A: Meeting notice request via email?

From the Herald-Republican (Angola): Q: Is it OK to send annual requests to government agencies for notification of meetings via email? Or does it have to go through the U.S. Postal Service to meet requirements of the Open Door Law? 

Q&A: Reaction to subpoena

From The News-Banner (Bluffton): Q: I received a “subpoena duces tecum” from an attorney seeking copies of any and all articles pertaining to a recent shooting death. It came from his office and was signed by him (not a judge). Am I…

Q&A: Holidays and the Open Door Law

From The Banner (Knightstown): Q: Does the day after Thanksgiving qualify as a “holiday” under the Open Door Law’s notice provision? Would the answer vary depending on whether an individual town treats it as one for its employees, or is it…

Q&A: Record retention

From The Republic (Columbus): Q: Do you know if there is a record retention requirement for public notice advertisement affidavits? Our current policy is to keep them for seven years, which seems to be overkill to me. 

Q&A: Records request response time

From The Indianapolis Star: Q: What is the code citation that says a state agency has a certain about of time to respond to a records request? A: The state Access to Public Records Act, IC 5-14-3-9, sets the time frame for a response to a…

Q&A: NFL trademarks

From NUVO (Indianapolis): Q: What’s the legality of using the words Super Bowl? Is there a difference between using it editorially and using it in an ad or house ad?  

Q&A: Threat of lawsuit

From the Sullivan Daily Times: Q: A family is upset with the newspaper because an obituary published a cause of death as a type of cancer that can result from a sexually transmitted disease. Another member of the deceased’s family…

Q&A: Unannounced meeting

From Vevay Reveille-Enterprise and The Switzerland Democrat (Vevay): Q: Would an unannounced meeting of the school board to discuss items it wants placed on the agenda by the school superintendent for the next public meeting be in…

Q&A: Expungement

From the Princeton Daily Clarion: Q: We received a tip that a newly elected official in the county was arrested on felony charges in Illinois in the past. When we checked with the Illinois court, we were told the records have been sealed.…

Q&A: School district litigation

From the Daily Journal (Franklin): Q: A school district held an executive session under the Open Door Law provision concerning litigation. We understand that the school board used that session to hold a hearing on a grievance filed by the…

Postal act would keep Saturday delivery for now

By Steve Key National Newspaper Association lobbyists Tonda Rush and Max Heath have been working on Capitol Hill for months to minimize the harm to newspapers from postal reform legislation. Finally, it appears a bill may be moving that…

Q&A: Liquor license

From The Herald (Jasper): Q: We have a retail client wishing to promote a sales event. They do not have a liquor license. Are they at odds with state law if they promote “Stop by for complimentary wine and cheese?” 

Q&A: Public notice header

From Community Media Group: Q: When determining what the newspaper should charge for a public notice advertisement, do you count the two lines of the header?

Q&A: Grand juries

From the North Vernon Sun and North Vernon Plain Dealer: Q: Do you have any guidance on covering a grand jury? I know everything is secret, so what can we report? 

Q&A: Public notice citation

From The Indianapolis Star: Q: Is this meeting notice adequate? Relevant portion: “The board is meeting pursuant to IC 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)(2)-(5) and is meeting only in executive session.” I thought executive session notices had to state the…

Q&A: Letter a public record

From The Salem Leader and The Salem Democrat: Q: A county commissioner resigned her seat when she was hired by the Wash­ing­ton County Economic Growth Partnership as its executive director. Later, when local officials were putting…

Q&A: Finding out superintendents’ salaries

From The Evansville Courier & Press: Q: We are working on a theory that the amount published as “salary” for school superintendents is often not the figure reported to the Indiana Teachers Retirement Fund for the purpose of calculating…

Q&A: Publication of ordinance

From the LaGrange News and LaGrange Standard: Q: The LaGrange county commissioners recently approved an ordinance that deals with money. Does it need to run two times, or is one time sufficient? Also, does the notice need to include the…

Q&A on public notice advertising

Get answers to your questions on public notice advertising – a vital component of government transparency – at a seminar Nov. 10 in Indianapolis. Q&A on public notice advertising When: 10 a.m.- noon Thursday, Nov. 10 Where: The…

Q&A: Political ad disclaimers

From The Rochester Sentinel: Q: I have a question regarding political ad disclaimers. Does an ad have to in­­clude the office a person is running for? For example, “Ad paid for by committee to elect Shoda Beehler, city clerk-treasurer;…

Q&A: Limited access in schools

From the Connersville News-Examiner: Q: The school superintendent says our education reporter can’t come to area schools without permission. The superintendent also says our photographer can’t take photos in the classroom without…

Q&: Public notice advertising formula

From The Shel­by­ville News: Q: We received an email from the county auditor requesting to place an advertisement to bid starting Sept. 8 and ending Sept. 21. We double-checked the dates requested via phone and email and informed the…

Q&A: Names of juveniles

From The Indian­apolis Star: Q: The Indian­apolis Metro­politan Police Department has stopped giving reporters the names of juveniles injured in accidents and as the result of violence and even those who are killed. Is there a statute I…

Q&A: Secret ballot

From the Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Q: The Hancock County Board of Zoning Appeals hands out ballots to its members to vote on questions before them. The ballots are collected and the vote read, but citizens aren’t told which members…

NNA speaks out on mail plan

The U.S. Postal Service must change, but the needs of customers must be the first consideration, the National Newspaper Association told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs this month. The need for a…

Statement of Ownership deadline is Oct. 1

It’s time to file, publish and fax your U.S. Pos­tal Service State­ment of Ownership. File the statement with the U.S. Postal Ser­vice: The deadline for filing your Period­icals Class Statement of Ownership with the Pos­tal Service is Oct.…

Q&A: Email and phone records

From the Daily Journal (Franklin): Q: Can a newspaper get emails and phone records of a county prosecutor, particularly those exchanged with a sheriff’s office technician? 

Q&A: Cost of police reports

From the Palladium-Item (Richmond): Q: We were told we could have a sheriff’s office accident report for $8 for a hard copy or $12 through the Internet. The police department also says $8. I thought public records were 10 cents a copy.…

Q&A: ID to receive public records?

From The Trailblazer (Vincennes University): Q: The Knox County Deten­tion Center requires ID to be provided in order to review the booking records. Is each detention center given freedom to make their own regulations for releasing such…

Q&A: Private service and Open Door Law

From the The Mail-Journal (Milford): Q: Would a private ambulance service that receives funds from town and township councils/boards for service fall under the Open Door Law? To my knowledge this service’s meetings are not publicized.…

Newspapers must insist on content control

By Steve Key State high school athletic associations earned a federal-court victory in an ongoing fight with newspapers over coverage of sporting events. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago recently ruled that the Wisconsin…

Postal Service changes its tune

The U.S. Postal Ser­vice is telling its marketing and management team to back off comments critical of newspapers as they promote the new Every Door Direct Mail advertising option. A spate of complaints from newspapers about postmasters…

Q&A: School financial report

From Wabash Plain Dealer: Q: The Hoosier State Press Association sent out a notice reminding newspapers of the window for publication of a school financial report. Are you talking about the annual report card or the budget estimate? A:…

Q&A: Records on public notice ads

From The Paper of Montgomery County (Crawfordsville): Q: How long should the newspaper keep information on public notice advertisements that have been placed by local entities? 

Q&A: NFL trademarks

From the Pharos-Tribune (Logansport): Q: Do you have a list of what newspapers can and can’t use in advertisements to avoid trademark infringement with the NFL? For example, I don’t believe we can use the words Colts, Super Bowl or…

Notices more likely to be read in ink

By Steve Key Public notice advertising is the often-neglected piece of the three Indiana statutes that protect the public’s right to know what its government representatives are doing or contemplating. The Open Door Law requires governing…

Q&A: Public notice rates

From The Herald-Bulletin (Anderson): Q: I know we are allowed to increase our government-set rates for public notice advertising in January. Do we need to wait until then to change all of the other public notice rates as well?

Q&A: Executive session interviews

From The Herald Bulletin (Anderson): Q: The Anderson school board recently appointed a person to fill a vacant seat. Along the way, they had an executive session to interview applicants. Does this comply with the Open Door Law? They also…

Q&A: Appraisal request

From The News and Tribune (Jeffersonville): Q: I recently requested a copy of an appraisal that the city of Jeffersonville had commissioned on a piece of property in town. They’ve apparently not yet made an offer on this property. Their…

Q&A: Midyear meeting-notice request

From The Herald Republican (Angola): Q: When a new public agency is formed, in our case a port authority, do we need to provide it with a request right away to receive notices for the remainder of the year or do we wait until the start of…

Q&A: County executive session

From the News-Examiner (Connersville): Q: Is it legal for a county board of commissioners to have an executive session to deal with a grievance filed against one of the commissioners by the unionized employees of the county highway…

Q&A: Meeting notice timeline

From the Spencer Evening World: Q: Can you advise on how often and how far in advance of a planned meeting date legal notices need to be published for a hearing on a proposed budget. Several of our township trustees have differing…

Q&A: Emailing fee

From the Evansville Courier & Press:. Q: I’ve requested the superintendent’s contract from LaPorte Schools, which can’t be more than 10 pages, and the district’s policy states that any email request involves a $5 fee. Does such a…

Public notices change in Ohio

The publication of Ohio public notices in newspapers will be reduced under a change approved by that state’s legislature at the end of June. The Ohio Newspaper Association estimated the changes will reduce revenue for its members from…

Q&A: Locked doors at board meeting

From the Chronicle-Tribune (Marion): Q: A local board locks the doors of the county building it uses in the evening for meetings when the meeting starts. Does that violate the Open Door Law? They say they have to lock the doors to keep…

Q&A: Statistical fee

From the Herald-Times (Bloomington): Q: The Bloomington Police Department wants to impose a statistical search fee of $5 per hour and require an initial fee of $5 to be paid to get a records search started of runs to a particular location…

Q&A: Graduation list

From The Daily Reporter (Green­field): Q: We recently published a story questioning Greenfield-Central High School’s 2010 graduation rate. We have a list of 108 students who withdrew from high school between their freshman and senior…

Q&A: Criminal history and copying fees

From the Pulaski County Journal (Winamac): Q: I was told yesterday by a probation officer in Starke County that she could not release information about a defendant under her supervision who was arrested in Pulaski County last week on…

Q&A: Meeting notifications

From The Banner (Knightstown): Q: I have a question on meeting notices – not for the public and media but for members of a governing body. Is there anything in the Open Door Law that addresses that? We had a situation last week where we…

Q&A: Copyright of online content

From The Truth (Elkhart): Q: I conducted a Google search for some eTruth content and discovered a website using virtually all of our content to establish itself as a competitor to our website. Is there anything we can do? 

Q&A: Recording meetings

From the Spencer Evening World: Q: Are government entities such as a board of county commissioners required to tape record meetings for record purposes? Our commissioners keep only written minutes. They previously recorded the meetings but…

Q&A: Board meeting minutes

From a Jasper resident: Q: A board meets and approves its minutes, but it doesn’t allow anyone to see the minutes before they are approved or speak on the proposed minutes before they are approved. Is this OK under the state’s public…

Q&A: Coupon advertisement

From the LaGrange Standard and LaGrange News: Q: Is it legal for a restaurant to advertise a coupon for a free alcoholic drink? I know happy hours drink specials are not allowed. 

Q&A: Legal meeting

From the Carroll County Comet (Delphi): Q: The city of Delphi board of works scheduled a hearing to address a nuisance property in town with the property owner and the tenant. The hearing was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. When the reporter…

Q&A: Meeting sign-in

From the News and Tribune (Jeffersonville): Q: Can the Clarks­ville city council force people to sign a registration sheet as a condition for attending its meetings?

Q&A: Small-claims suit against paper

From an attorney in Goshen: Q: A small claims lawsuit has been filed seeking money from newspaper. The plaintiff is trying to hold the newspaper responsible for money lost when he responded to what turned out to be a fraudulent ad. Can you…

Change benefits requester papers

Requester newspapers may now document proof of their readers’ requests by email or fax, according to a revised customer support ruling (PS-054) from the U.S. Postal Service. The service’s mailing standards office released revised standards…

Q&A: Obtaining plea agreement

From the Palladium-Item (Richmond): Q: A reporter is having trouble getting a copy of a plea agreement filed by a prosecutor with a court. Shouldn’t the newspaper be able to get a copy of the proposed plea deal?

Q&A: Political ad tagline

From The Courier-Times (New Castle): Q: Some private party citizens want to run an ad about a mayoral candidate. What should the “paid for by” tagline say?

Q&A: School board construction bids

From The News-Banner (Bluffton): Q: The school board approved two construction projects. When would the records of the bids on those projects become available for inspection and copying?

Q&A: Are police suspensions public records?

From The News-Dispatch (Michigan City): Q: The chief of police in a small town near Michigan City has reportedly been suspended amid a state police investigation. Town officials are refusing to confirm who has been suspended. Is a police…

Q&A: Polital ad disclaimer

From Indianapolis Business Journal: Q: Should political ads on a newspaper website include the same disclaimer outlining who paid for it and whether it was authorized by a candidate that would be required in print?

Q&A: Recording conversations

From a Zionsville city council member: Q: What does Indiana law say about recording a phone conversation if one of the participants is the one who is recording the conversation?

Q&A: Personnel file?

From WANE-TV (Fort Wayne): Q: A county commissioner received a letter from a sheriff’s department employee alleging harassment by the sheriff. County officials have denied access to the letter claiming it’s part of a personnel file. Are…

Q&A: Board of works quorum

From the Chronicle-Tribune (Marion): Q: The board of works has been meeting but is having a problem reaching a quorum. Even though they have no quorum, the two members present have been signing off on payments to be made. Can they do this?

Q&A: Press cleared from courtroom

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: I have been covering a murder trial this week. This morning before the jury was brought in but after the courtroom was full with spectators and the defendant, the judge asked all of us to leave so she could…

Q&A: Are feedback cards public records?

From The Herald-Times (Bloomington): Q: The Monroe County Community School Corp. is in the process of hiring a new superintendent. They’ve announced the final two candidates publicly and are hosting public forums to allow people to ask the…

Free seminars provide access education

A series of identical seminars conducted around the state will educate government representatives on their obligations and citizen on their rights under Indiana’s public access laws. Several HSPA-member newspapers will serve as local…

Q&A: Fee for copies

From LAK Publications: Q: The town has always charged six cents for copies. Wouldn't the town council have to approve a price increase in a public meeting if the town wants to raise the price to 10 cents?

Q&A: Copyright

From The Republic (Columbus): Q: Apparently a company is taking our articles, putting them on laminated plaques and attempting to sell them to people featured in the articles. Is this a violation of our copyright? If so what is our…

Q&A: Fair Housing Act and classified advertising

From The Shelbyville News: Q: Do you have a book or a list of words that are not recommended or are illegal to use in a classified advertisement? Particularly, can classified housing ads say non-smoking, no drug use and no alcohol allowed?

Q&A: Open Door Law and e-mail

From The Herald-Times (Bloomington): Q: What are the rules for school board e-mail communication? Is there any point where board members are considered to be circumventing the Open Door Law if they’re conversing over e-mail about issues?

Q&A: Family Education Rights and Privacy Act

From Indiana Daily Student (Indiana University): Q: As a student reporter at the Indiana Daily Student in Bloomington, I’ve had several school officials begin citing that they can’t give any documents that would personally identify a…

Q&A: Define organizational meeting

From The Republic (Columbus): Q: One of our reporters tried to get into a meeting of the executive board of the local visitors center and was told he couldn’t attend because it was an “organizational meeting.” The visitors center gets 80…

Q&A: Public Notice Advertising Law

From The Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Question: We have some townships that have delivered their annual report after our deadline for guaranteeing publication by the date necessary for them to meet their state-set deadline. Can the…

Q&A: Caucus and Open Door Law

From The Truth (Elkhart): Question: A council plans to hold a caucus to discuss its budget and potential cuts. All seven members of the council are Republicans. Would this comply with the Open Door Law?

Q&A: School performance report online

From the North Vernon Plain Dealer: Question: The annual school performance report is a large public notice advertisement and isn’t in the same form as most public notices that we publish and post on our website. Are we required to post the…

Q&A: Tight meeting space

From The Herald-Times (Bloomington): Question: The meeting room for a public meeting in Monroe County was too small to accommodate the crowd that wanted to attend. Was it a violation of the Open Door Law to hold the meeting there?

Q&A: Merit board executive session

From the Brown County Democrat (Nashville): Question: The newspaper has learned that the sheriff’s merit board went into an executive session during its regularly scheduled meeting last night and conducted another executive session this…

Q&A: School performance reports

From The Times (Noblesville): Question: With data available online for annual school performance reports, do we just run it or schedule the publication date with the school corporation?

Q&A: School bus driver information

From The LaPorte Herald-Argus: Question: We had an anonymous tip that a young boy fell asleep on a school bus on the way to school. The driver had the last kid off the bus hit the safety button at the back of the bus that normally would…

Q&A: Probable cause affidavit

The following question came from the Daily Reporter (Greenfield): Question: Our newly elected county clerk denied access today to a probable cause affidavit in a criminal matter. The case involves charges of incest and molesting, and the…

Q&A: Executive session or open meeting

The following question came from The Republic (Columbus): Question: The Columbus Commons Board, an entity charged with managing the public portions of the Commons Mall, has announced an executive session “for discussions on strategy with…

Q&A: Vital statistics

The following question came from Spencer Evening World: Question: Our newly elected county clerk intends to stop allowing the newspaper access to records of property transfers and other vital statistics such as marriages and civil and…

Q&A: Retraction demand

The following question came from The Mail-Journal (Milford): Q: A developer has served a retraction demand on the newspaper for its story pointing out his ties to a naturist resort in another state. The demand insists that the newspaper…

Q&A: Open Door Law violation

The following question came from The Times (Frankfort): Q: Members of the city board of works and representatives of a private ambulance service attended the county commissioners meeting. When the commissioners refused to allow them time…

Q&A: Open Door Law violation?

The following question came from The Reporter-Times (Martinsville): Question: A Brooklyn Town Council meeting started off with three members passing (3-2 vote) the demotion of the current marshal and the hiring of a new marshal. The…

Q&A: Journalism ethics

The following question came from a Lake County attorney: Question: Are Indiana newspapers required to follow state standards or an ethical code concerning their behavior?

Q&A: Embargos and enforcement

The following question came from The Indianapolis Star: Question: Can a state agency enforce an embargo on materials it gives to the newspaper? The information doesn’t fall under any category that would make it confidential.

Q&A: Executive sessions and Open Door Law

Q: What are the limitations on the Open Door Law provision that allows school boards to hold an executive session “with an outside consultant about the performance of the role of the members as public officials?” A local school district…

Q&A: School records in bullying case

From Fox 59: Q: We are investigating bullying on a school bus.  What rights to expulsion records or disciplinary records or reviews of coaches do we have a right to? We've asked for access to a tort civil suit.

Q&A: Reporters can be at polling places

From the Carroll County Comet: Q: Are the media not allowed in polling places? I just got booted out of one by an inspector in Carroll County. There were no voters there. Only the poll workers who I wanted to talk to about any events of…

Q&A: Access to the daily log

From The Indianapolis Star: Q: Aren't individual police agencies required to keep a daily log? We shouldn't have to go through a county dispatch to get information, should we?

Q&A: Are town marshals public officials?

From The Banner (Knightstown): Q: A town is preparing to interview applicants for a vacant town marshal position. A question has arisen as to the proper protocol for interviewing applicants based on whether the town marshal is considered a…

Q&A: Anonymous records

From the Courier-Times (New Castle): Q: We were sent records anonymously of an internal investigation in our sheriff's department. The documents appear to be legit. We'll find out more about their veracity when we start asking questions…

Q&A: Executive session in middle of public meeting

From the Greene County Daily World: Q:  After calling the regular meeting to order, a city council conducted a public hearing on a federal disaster recovery grant from Housing and Urban Development. It’s a $280,000 federal grant that the…

Q&A: Private huddle during public meeting

From the Pulaski County Journal (Winamac): Q: I am running into some problems gaining information from county commissioner and county council meetings. During a regular meeting of either of those boards, should there be any information in…

Q&A: Advertising liquor in classifieds

From The Herald (Jasper): Q: A client wants to place this classified ad: 10 Jim Beam Ford car whiskey decanters, all for $300. Since the containers contain liquor, he would not be allowed to advertise them as such without a license,…

Q&A: Who can run sheriff sales?

From The Indianapolis Star: Q: What are the rules for where sheriff sale public notice advertisements must be placed? IC 32-29-7-3 says the sheriff is bound to publish in a newspaper of “general circulation.” IC 5-3-1-0-4 says a newspaper…

Q&A: Copyright rules for performances

From The Republic (Columbus): Q: We would like to shoot video of a portion (probably a single song) from the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic's Christmas concert to use on our website on Christmas Day. The philharmonic has given us permission…

Q&A: Police officer settlement

From Register Publications: Q: A city recently accepted the resignation of a police officer who entered a plea agreement related to felony charges. The officer was on paid leave until late December, then on unpaid administrative leave with…

Q&A: Police disciplinary hearings

From The Banner (Knightstown): Q: Are police officer disciplinary hearings under IC 36-8-3-4(c) required to be public proceedings, or can be handled in executive session under IC 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)(6) or some other exception?

Q&A: Web-only publications

From The Mail-Journal (Milford): Q: Does a web-only publication qualify as a member of the media that’s required to receive notification of meetings? 

Q&A: Results of survey are public records

From The Indiana Lawyer (Indianapolis): Q: The Indiana Supreme Court held a public comment period earlier this year asking for feedback on a rule revision the court is considering. That period ended, and now a Supreme Court's Rules…

Q&A: Fire territory

From the Carroll County Comet: Q: A fire territory was established in Carroll County. Members include the city of Delphi and three townships. Each entity is represented on a territory board. The Indiana Code allows for establishment, and…

Q&A: Records on school computers

From the Peru Tribune: Q: A former basketball coach resigned after an alleged misconduct situation at North Miami High School in Denver, Ind. He was hired July 16 by the Madison Consolidated School Corp. based up a letter of recommendation…

Q&A: Claims as legal notices

From the The Lebanon Reporter: Q: A local town has never run its claims as a legal notice. Neither have the schools. Are they required to do so? We get claims from the county.

Q&A: Board of Accounts audit

From The Herald (Jasper): Q: As part of its routine audits of public agencies, does the State Board of Accounts verify that all required public notices have been published? A: I don't know that they audit that closely. I believe when it…

Q&A: CAPS account with post office is optional

From The Michigan City News-Dispatch: Q: We are being told that to qualify for the new postal lower rates we'd have to set up a CAPS account where the post office would require us to deposit an initial amount of $2,000 with them and allow…

Q&A: Teacher union labor agreement

From the Chronicle-Tribune (Marion): Q: Our local public school board and the Marion Teachers Association have reached a tentative labor agreement. The school board will vote at a later date. Are we entitled under state law to examine the…

Q&A: Copies of state police reports

From a citizen: Q: I wondered if you knew why the Indiana State Police would tell me I could not get copies of a report mailed to me about a May 1981 murder-suicide investigation that occurred on the interstate in Indiana. The officer did…

Q&A: Bids and public meetings

From LAK Publications: Q: Is it a violation of the Open Door Law if quotes and bids are not opened in a public meeting? A contractor even started work before the redevelopment commission awarded him the project that evening. In another…

Q&A: Newspaper boxes on postal property

Q: Newspaper boxes have traditionally not been allowed on U.S. Postal Service property. Does that still hold? A: While some post offices allow them, I've seen them barred under the Postal Service’s non-solicitation rules. So no third-party…

Q&A: Statements of ownership

Q: Can you give a general description about circulation statement requirements? A: A federal statute mandates the publication of the annual statements of ownership for periodicals. Periodicals have to run these around Oct. 1 every year.…

Q&A: Right to speak at public meetings?

From the Carroll County Comet: Q: An attorney at the Indiana School Board Association told me that school board meetings are not "public" meetings where the public is allowed to speak. She said they were "open" meetings, but the board of…

Q&A: Notification of public meetings

The Times (Munster): Q: I am in the process of writing a letter to the president of a government agency, the Crown Point Development Corp., to request notification of meetings. I want to quote the Indiana Code where it says that…

Q&A: Public information about fire runs

Q: What records concerning fire runs and arson investigations are available for inspection and copying? A: Any fire run report is a public record, except for data that contains personally identifiable information about an injured person…

Q&A: Public access to committee meetings

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: Century Center in South Bend is a public facility with a board of directors that is a public agency. We go to their meetings, get notice for them, etc. They have a committee that they have appointed some of…

Q&A: Newspaper contest considered lottery

From The Tribune (New Albany): Q: In Indiana, when is a newspaper contest considered a lottery and against state statute? A: The Indiana Gaming Commission has taken the position that if you require a purchase to qualify for the prize,…

Q&A: Email and cookie records

From the New Albany Tribune: Q: A school superintendent is willing to meet with me to talk about why I think something should be public. He would like to see the Indiana Code proving my point. What codes would require these things to be…

Q&A: Poor relief records

Q: What information should be a public record regarding poor relief applications and determinations? A: The application and investigatory records are confidential. The Notice of Determination is a public record, as are the records showing…

Q&A: Fire department medics and HIPPA

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: I'm trying to get some very basic information on a fire department medic call regarding a guy who fell off his roof and was critically injured. The captain of the medic unit said HIPAA prohibited him from…

Q&A: Report about school hazing

From the Greensburg Daily News: Q: We have an incident involving hazing at one of our public middle schools. The investigation is complete, and there are no criminal charges being sought, but administrative action was taken. After…

Q&A: Coroner report deadline

From the Daily Reporter: Q: Is there any particular timeline regarding how long a coroner has to generate a report after autopsy/toxicology screen results come back on a death investigation? We're running into a  problem with a coroner…

Q&A: Promotional advertisement

From the Ferdinand News and Spencer County Leader: Q: We received inserts from a company that are a postcard-sized scratch off game (three hands of Blackjack) claiming over $100,000 in prizes. The fine print says, “You may be asked to view…

Q&A: Withholding fire department records

From the News-Sentinal: Q: Can a city deny a request for information surrounding under Indiana Code 5-14-3-4(b) because of an ongoing investigations. The city cited this statute and said:  Once information has been completed and reviewed…

Q&A: IHSAA records

From the South Bend Tribune: Q: We had a story here where a wrestler who transferred from Penn to Mishawaka High School was denied eligibility to wrestle his senior year. A lot of the denial by IHSAA and the review board was based on a…

Q&A: Fire chief wants to be trustee too

From the Ellettsville Journal: Q: A township trustee passed away a few days ago. One of the interested parties in replacing him is the fire chief. Can he be trustee without resigning as fire chief? It seems it might be a conflict since our…

Q&A: Meeting minutes

From the Carroll County Comet: Q: I requested a copy of the minutes from the auditor for the last two county council meetings. I was refused. The auditor said she doesn't like to give them out until they are approved. Do you recommend a…