IBJNews

Access counselor says education board didn’t violate law

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Indiana’s public access counselor said Monday that the State Board of Education did not violate the law when 10 of its members sent a letter to legislative leaders without meeting in public to do so.

But Public Access Counselor Luke Britt also warned in an advisory opinion that “final decisions are meant to be open and transparent,” and urged the board and agencies to be careful about following the spirit of the state’s Open Door Law.

“I encourage all public agencies to be especially attentive to the purpose of public access laws to avoid ambiguous situations and arousing suspicions of prohibited activities,” Britt wrote. “Regardless of the intent, the appearance of action taken which is hidden from public view is particularly damaging to the integrity of a public agency and contrary to the purposes of transparency and open access.”

The public access counselor was responding to complaints from four Hoosiers –Tony Lux, Ed Eiler, Cathy Fuentes-Rohrer and Julie Hollingsworth – who sought the opinion as a precursor to a possible lawsuit against the state board.

They filed their complaints shortly after Marion Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg dismissed a lawsuit brought by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, who made similar allegations that the board acted illegally.

Ritz chairs the State Board of Education but was not part of the effort to draft and send a letter that asked GOP legislative leaders to have the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency calculate A-F school grades, even before the Department of Education had finished working on the data.

The judge said Ritz didn’t have authority to go to court without representation by or permission from the attorney general. Rosenberg did not rule on the merits of the lawsuit.

The state’s Open Door Law requires government boards or commissions to have a public meeting to vote, take other action or even to receive information.

But in his opinion on Monday, Britt said he found no evidence that a majority of the State Board of Education met to approve the letter to legislative leaders. The board’s staff – housed at the state’s Center for Education and Career Innovation – say they crafted the letter and distributed it by email to board members for signature.

Britt said it’s not clear whether a majority of board members directed the staff to write the letter. And he said state law exempts email from a ban on so-called serial meetings, in which members gather privately in small groups to reach consensus outside public view.

Still, Britt said that “even through email, a perceived proactive ratification of an action concerning public interest is leaning against the public policy intentions of openness and transparency.”

“I firmly believe the call-and-response nature of the email exchange amounted to an endorsement of the action,” he wrote, “but I cannot say it is a vote in the traditional sense.”

Indianapolis attorney William Groth, who represents the individuals who filed the public access complaints, said Britt’s decision “could be viewed as pointing out a gaping hole” in the state’s Open Door law.

He also called the decision “troublesome.”

The public access counselor “apparently believes that any public agency in Indiana can transact business in secret as long as it does so via email, even where the agency later ratifies that action by majority vote,” Groth said.

Groth said attorneys are reviewing the decision and will meet with their clients before deciding how to proceed.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Hello Dear Are you tired of Seeking Loans and Mortgages,have you Been Turned down constantly By your banks and Other Financial Institutions or Micro Finance scheme. This is let you know with 100% guarantee that we Offer loans ranging from $1,000 Minimum to $1,000,000.00 Maximum at 3% interest rate per Month. We give out LOANS for developing business. a competitive edge/business expansion. email address: michealscottloan124@gmail.com We offer the following kinds of loans and many more; * Personal Loans ( Unsecured Loan) * Business Loans ( Unsecured Loan) * Consolidation Loan * Combination Loan * Home Improvement * Xmas Loans for contact to seek for loan email this email address: michealscottloan124@gmail.com Thanks

  2. My name is Mr Henry Josh and i live in the USA California and life is worth living right now for me and my family and all this is because of one man sent by GOD to help me and my family, i once had a life filled with sorrow because my first SON needed a kidney transplant and all our savings were going towards his medications and this normally leaves us with no money to pay our bills or even put enough food on our table and our rent was due and no funds to pay these bills and life felt so unfair to me and every night my wife will cry herself to sleep every night until one day, i was browsing through yahoo answers and i saw a striking advert of a man that gives out personal loans and that the offer is opened to all and i have heard so many things about internet scams but at this point of my life, i was very desperate and ready to take any risk and at the end of the day, i applied for this loan and from one step to another, i got my loan within 12 hours through bank transfer and you know, it was all like a dream and i called Mr Daniel Jones A Man who is the GOD sent lender i found and said, i have received my loan and he smiled stating that to GOD be the glory and i was so shocked as i have never ever seen anyone with such a GOD fearing and kind heart and today, i am the happiest man on earth because by GOD’S grace, my SON kidney transplant was successful and today he is healthy, i and my family are living very comfortable and happy and if you are in my former situation or in serious and legitimate need of a loan, you can reach this GOD sent lender via fidelityloanfirm@outlook.com

  3. Greetings to everyone reading this comment!!! I am Greg William by name. I am out here to recommend the effort of Mark Oscar,I was in need of a consolidation loan amount of 50,000 and as soon as I got in contact with Mark Oscar Loan Firm on Wednesday last week and on Friday last week as well I receive an alert from my bank(Royal Bank of Scotland Group) that the fund was transferred,I want everybody on this site to contact Mark Oscar now via email on how to get a loan because I got my loan from them and I am very happy,so contact them now. Oscarloanfinance@hotmail.com Thanks!!!!!!

  4. Elected officials, like Mourdock, get vested in 8 years. It takes 10 years for all other public employees, most of whom make a lot less money. So much for the promise to finish out his term.

  5. Great state treasurer and a good man!! Just curious if the folks who didn't quite understand his quote would like to tell my daughter-in-law that God didn't intend her! Mourdock's comment was correct but twisted and the article didn't mention that his opponent and the press let the impression stand that Mourdock meant that the rape was intended. Stupid people!!

ADVERTISEMENT