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An important step to keeping government open
Thursday, December 19, 2013 10:00 AM
Each December, newspapers across Indiana deliver letters to local government agencies and schools, requesting that those agencies inform them of planned meeting times in the coming year.
Sending those letters is part of Indiana's Open Door Law, a responsibility that newspapers take seriously. And, so should all Hoosiers.
Just as the law requires that governmental agencies notify the public of meeting times, the law also requires that newspapers deliver letters requesting notification of updates and additions to those schedules by Dec. 31 each year.
Our local governmental agencies and schools do a pretty good job of informing us of upcoming meetings.
Some agencies send us their schedules of meetings for the entire year even before we mail the request.
This advance notice of meetings helps us post that information on our community calendar at www.madisoncourier.com
The times and places seldom change, but it is important that the public have reminders.
The Open Door Law is not limited to the media. It is for all Hoosiers. If you have trouble with access to public meetings or public records, let us know. We might be able to help by contacting the Indiana public access counselor, Luke Britt, whose job it is to monitor compliance with the Open Door and Access to Public Records laws.
The access counselor has no power to enforce the laws. But the counselor mediates disputes by giving advisory opinions that often resolve the issues.
Gov. Frank O'Bannon created the office by executive order in 1998 after a statewide collaboration of seven newspapers found great obstacles in obtaining government information in Indiana. The General Assembly then created the office by statute in 1999.
The Open Door legislation need not be seen by public officials as a piece of adversary legislation, pitting them against the media.
While it is the media's responsibility to keep an eye on public agencies and inform the public, it is important for both the media and public officials to recognize that the real goal is to conduct the business of the people in full view of them.
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