Indiana government corruption
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"At least four of the five Noblesville School Board members agree with Superintendent Lynn Lehman's decision to keep the district's budget under wraps until a Tuesday night public hearing.
Noblesville Schools will hold that public hearing for its $83.8 million budget at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the central office annex, 1775 Field Drive, but has released little information about how the money would be spent. This year's budget initially called for spending an estimated $81.7 million, but officials declined to provide updated information until Tuesday."
ICOG (Indiana Coaltion For Open Government) likes to highlight examples of government officials acting to improve access. Last month in Huntington, a split decision by the Common Council are granting access to local government information, including financial transactions, on that city's new Web site.
Council member Steve McIntyre led the effort. The council in May had passed McIntyre's resolution requiring the city to post much more information on the Web site than it previously had made available online. Because the vote was so close – 4-3 – McIntyre felt the need for more public discussion of the issue.
The resolution requires posting a record of every payment by the city, including the amount and, except where prohibited by law, the identity of the recipient. It also mandates posting of a roster of all “government personnel” – city employees, officers, elected officials and members of boards and commissions. McIntyre said the identities of employees requiring confidentiality, such as undercover police officers, would not be made public.
The state Senate unanimously approved the bill, which supporters say would put teeth into Indiana's open door and public records laws. But the bill didn't advance in the House."
Public Access Counselor Heather Willis Neal said in a two-page opinion that the city's "pattern of unresponsiveness and nondisclosure" violated the spirit and letter of the state law designed to require public officials to disclose how public money is spent."
The state Senate unanimously approved the bill, which supporters say would put much-needed teeth into Indiana's open door and public records laws. But a House committee chairman said Tuesday that he doesn't plan to give the bill a hearing before a key deadline this week."
"Indiana citizens have no legal right to know with whom state employees meet.
The state public access counselor issued an informal opinion to the Post-Tribune last week, reaffirming that state law.
The newspaper had sought the meeting schedules of employees of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management."
"Two bills before the 2009 legislature would make it a little easier for Hoosiers to fulfill their roles as watchdogs of state government. The measures are welcome in light of the embarrassing Sunshine Week report that ranked Indiana next to last in availability of government records online.
The report found that many important public documents -- political campaign contributions, disciplinary actions against doctors and lawyers and environmental citations, for example -- are posted on government Web sites in most states but not here."
"After being found in violation of the Access to Public Records Act (APRA), the Muncie Police Department has lowered the copying fee charged to the public for case reports like burglaries, thefts and vandalism.
More than a year ago, Franklin attorney John Emry, whose practice includes civil rights, filed a complaint with the police and with the Indiana Public Access Counselor after being charged $5 for case reports, each of which contained only a couple of pages."
As expected, the measure to put teeth into enforcement of open-records and open-meetings laws had its fangs filed down considerably in committee. Yet it still meets its essential purpose of imposing consequences on public servants who refuse to carry out their legal duty to let citizens know what their government is up to."
"The state Legislature today is voting on dozens of bills, struggling to meet tonight's midnight deadline to amend bills and Wednesday night's deadline to pass bills out of the House and Senate and send them on to the other chamber."
"The Indiana Senate voted 49-0 today for a bill that seeks to put more teeth into Indiana’s public records laws. Senate Bill 232, sponsored by Sen. Bev Gard, R-Greenfield, now goes to the House for consideration. The bill would allow for people who blatantly violate open records laws to be fined."
"Indiana SB 0232 is currently up for consideration in the legislature. It is a very important and timely piece of legislation for Morgan County. SB 232 proposes to toughen laws which provide for more open access to Government on both the state and local levels by actually fining those agencies or their individual agencies for failure to comply with the law.
Another change proposed by the bill is that members of the public could ask to be put on the yearly contact list for 48-hour advance notification of any governmental agency board meetings. Currently, only news organization have this opportunity.
The current laws fall short by allowing some who are denied public records to take an agency or individual to court, but not providing for a fine for refusing to release records that are supposed to be open."
"As one of the thousands of organizations or people filing federal Freedom of Information or state public access requests, we share in Indiana a frustration that even a favorable ruling carries no teeth.
And, well, a law -- any law -- is only as good as the apparatus to enforce it, starting with the penalties enumerated for violation.
SB 232, authored by Sen. Beverly Gard, represents an important step toward righting a wrong situation by, among other things, spelling out penalties for willful violation by public officials of public records and open meetings requests."
"The law's the law, and breaking it in Indiana always carries at least a potential price.
Well, almost always.
Public officials who knowingly violate the state's open records and open meetings laws have no fear of consequences other than perhaps bad publicity and angry voters."
"As a staunch advocate of open door and open records issues, I thought it was interesting that the Elkhart County commissioners picked transparency as a reason why the Legislature should not implement some of the local government reform proposals offered by former Gov. Joe Kernan and Chief Justice Randall Shepard.
Their premise is that county government is more transparent and open than city government.
One of the ideas in the Kernan-Shepard report is for the three-member county commission to be replaced by a single county executive. County councils then would have to become more like city councils and deal with more legislative issues, rather than just finances as they do now."
Councilman Ron Grooms, speaking during a meeting Monday night, said the audit revealed “glaring weaknesses in the clerk-treasurer’s office” as well as raised questions about the transparency of city government."
"A Statehouse proposal could impose fines of up to $1,000 on government agencies -- or their individual employees -- that blatantly violate Indiana's public access laws.
A Senate committee could vote next week on the legislation, which supporters say would put much-needed teeth into Indiana's open door law and public records rules.
The bill would allow judges to fine public agencies or agency workers who intentionally violate open meeting rules or public records laws, which are used by citizens and the media to obtain many government documents. An agency could pay for the fines from its budget, while a fine on an employee would come from the worker's wallet."
"Indiana government won't be fully reformed until the legislature overhauls the state's archaic, piecemeal open records law.
The law is so bad, it might be easier to throw it out entirely and start fresh with a new law.
Indiana tried to fix the problem a decade ago, when Hoosier newspapers banded together and reported on the difficulty of accessing records across the state."
Evans said he turned over the files that Deppe has sought on Tuesday, and that she picked up the documents on Wednesday.
Evans maintained that he was not legally required to turn over the old records, but that he did so because he wanted the “silly” dispute to be over with."
"Monrovia’s Town Council will no longer record its meetings. The council passed a motion to end audio recording of meetings conducted by town officials, including the council, the board of zoning appeals and the plan commission.
Town Clerk-Treasurer Norieta Sichting said she had found that the boards were not legally required to make audio recordings of their meetings and told council President Bob Marley."