Impact study stays hidden from public

Indiana’s public access counselor has ruled that an economic impact study of the Horizon Convention Center is not a public record under state law. That advisory opinion aside, the local Association of Concerned Taxpayers and the Delaware County Farm Bureau might continue to pursue access to the report.

 

Impact study stays hidden from public

By Rick Yencer
The (Muncie) Star Press

MUNCIE (March 30, 2004) — Indiana’s public access counselor has ruled that an economic impact study of the Horizon Convention Center is not a public record under state law.

That advisory opinion aside, the local Association of Concerned Taxpayers and the Delaware County Farm Bureau might continue to pursue access to the report.

Michael Hurst, the state’s public access counselor, issued his opinion last week — after receiving a complaint from the taxpayers group — and said he found that Ball State University had not violated the state’s public records law when it denied access to the report.

‘Because the report requested is the actual research document concerning research by a university and conducted under the auspices of an institution of high learning, the university had no choice but to withhold the record pursuant to law,”

Hurst wrote in his March 26 reply. Hurst cited a 1995 Indiana Court of Appeals ruling that found research information, including factual data from it, was exempt from the law.

Last year, the Delaware County Civic Center Authority hired Patrick Barkey, director of economic and policy studies at BSU’s Miller College of Business, to determine the impact the convention center has on the local economy. ACT and the Farm Bureau contributed to the expenses, but the CCA later claimed the study was incomplete and returned it.

Ken Cress, an ACT member, said he was disappointed by Hurst’s opinion, adding that taxpayers still planned to pursue the information in the study. He declined to say whether the group would pursue litigation or seek recourse with elected officials who appoint members of the CCA.

Kaye Whitehead, president of the Delaware County Farm Bureau, said she did not understand why the university and CCA refused to disclose the information. ‘What’s the big deal?” she asked. ‘Why not let the public see what the research was?”

Heather Shupp, executive director of university communications, said state law did not give the university the discretion to release the study.

‘It is against the law for us to give it up,” she said.

Dan Allen, president of the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, said the CCA could not release the study because it was never finished and the convention board was unwilling to pay for it.