Dave Askins, B Square Beacon, November 29, 2020
On June 10 this year, Bloomington’s city council decided to hire then-deputy council administrator/attorney Stephen Lucas to replace the retiring Dan Sherman. Lucas had been serving as Sherman’s deputy for about nine months.
Just after the meeting when the council voted to hire Lucas, The Square Beacon filed a request under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA) for an email message described during the meeting by councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith.
The opinion also notes that the APRA provides the basis for a potential lawsuit against the city council: “There is indeed a cause of action for arbitrary or capricious exercise of discretion in withholding public records. The Council will be well served being mindful of this going forward.”
The idea that the APRA should be conceived as a shield is reflected in an email sent to councilmembers by their now retired administrator/attorney Dan Sherman in the early days of the pandemic.
Sherman wrote to councilmembers:
“If you would rather feel free to expound without fear of creating a disclosable public record, your speculative communications within the City may well be withheld as deliberative material. Although no guarantee that your words won’t be disclosed, you may want to include “deliberative” in the heading, so that your attorneys will know what you intended in that regard.”
You can read the full article here: https://bsquarebeacon.com/2020/11/29/opinion-states-public-access-counselor-opinion-shows-bloomingtons-city-council-has-a-transparency-problem/
You can read the full PAC Opinion here: https://www.in.gov/pac/advisory/files/20-FC-104.pdf