Access counselor: County violated Open Door Law
Friday, October 11, 2013 11:00 AM
The Indiana public access counselor has given an advisory opinion that the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners violated Indiana's Open Door Law during a closed meeting in September.
Warren Auxier, a Hanover resident, submitted the formal complaint to the Office of the Indiana Public Access Counselor early last month, claiming that the commissioners discussed and took action on a proposal to build a new Jefferson County Animal Shelter during an executive session on Sept. 6. Auxier did not provide details as to the specific action taken by the board in the complaint.
"The Commissioners received information, and recommendations from the shelter director, discussed and deliberated the information they received, and then made decisions on how the shelter director should proceed with her proposal," Auxier wrote in his complaint.
Under Indiana law, government boards are allowed to hold closed meetings to discuss items such as litigation strategy or employee performance; however, public business and official action must take place in a public session.
Auxier wrote that he confirmed through Jefferson County Animal Shelter Director Jenny Slover and Commissioner Bob Little that the advertised executive session, which listed Slover on the agenda, was established to discuss and review the proposal to build a new animal shelter.
Repeated attempts to contact County Attorney Wil Goering for comment were unsuccessful.
Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt reviewed the complaint and gave the Board of Commissioners an opportunity to respond on Sept. 25, according to Indiana Public Access Counselor records. The board did not submit a response, and therefore, Britt's opinion was that a violation of the Open Door Law had occurred.
Britt wrote that "deliberations or discussions regarding animal shelters or related matters" during an executive session are not authorized by the state statute.
"It is the opinion of the Office of the Public Access Counselor that, in absence of any response alleging otherwise, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners violated the Open Door Law," Britt wrote.
Here is a link to Britt's full opinion, released and published earlier this month: www.in.gov/pac/advisory/files/13-FC-264.pdf.