Paper sues for city for access to public settlement details

The Banner, a weekly newspaper published in Knightstown, filed a lawsuit in the Henry Circuit Court as part of the paper’s continuing efforts to learn the terms of the confidential settlement agreement that ended a former town employee’s federal civil rights lawsuit against the town, its police department and several public employees.

 

Paper sues for city for access to secret settlement details

From Submitted Release

KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. (May 27, 2004) — The Banner, a weekly newspaper published in Knightstown, Ind., filed a lawsuit in the Henry Circuit Court last Friday (May 21) as part of the paper’s continuing efforts to learn the terms of the confidential settlement agreement that ended a former town employee’s federal civil rights lawsuit against the town, its police department and several public employees.

In November of 2002, GiGi Steinwachs, a former dispatcher with the Knightstown Police Department, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the town and other defendants in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Among other things, Steinwachs claimed to have been assaulted, falsely imprisoned and subjected to sexual harassment and discrimination. Last October, the case was settled under confidential terms and Steinwachs dismissed her case against the town and other defendants.

The Banner was not successful in its numerour attempts to obtain a copy of the settlement agreement from the town, its attorneys and the town’s insurer. In December, The Banner filed a formal complaint with the Indiana Public Access Counselor (PAC), who ultimately ruled that the confidential settlement agreement was not a public record and that the town’s insurer and attorneys were not public agencies under the state’s public access laws.

In its lawsuit, The Banner alleges, the PAC’s opinion notwithstanding, that the settlement agreement is a public record. Additionally, it claims that the town, acting through the attorneys retained to represent the town, the police department and other individual defendants, had a duty to retain that record and make it publicly available for inspection and copying.

The Banner is represented by Indianapolis attorney Kurt Webber.