Public access counselor issues latest annual report

Who most often goes to the Public Access Counselor to ask whether the public is entitled to see a government document or attend a meeting of a public body? Those who work in government.

Who is the subject of most complaints about access to public information? County agencies.

What are most complaints about? Being denied a public record.

Those answers and more are available in the latest annual report from Indiana Public Access Counselor Heather Willis Neal, who just submitted the report to the Indiana General Assembly. The report summarizes the activity of the PAC’s office for the fiscal year ending June 30.

Neal’s office fielded 1,055 inquiries – questions by telephone or e-mail – from those in government during the year, according to the report. Members of the general public were close behind with 1,016 inquiries, followed by the members of the media with 194.

All but two of those 2,270 inquiries were resolved.

Neal also received 246 complaints during the year. Unlike a question that simply is asked by telephone or e-mail, a complaint is the formal filing of a grievance by someone who was denied access to a record or meeting, and the access counselor is required to issue a formal, non-binding advisory opinion on the case based on the evidence she gathers.

Members of the general public filed most of the complaints – 220. Members of the media filed 22 complaints and the government four.

County agencies were the subject of 97 complaints, followed by city agencies, 44; state agencies, 39; town agencies, 27; school corporations, 26; township agencies, 6; universities, 5; and other local agencies, 2.

Disputes over public records accounted for 210 of the 246 complaints. Thirty-one involved public meetings, and five involved both.

Neal said opinions were issued in 226 cases and that opinions were pending in seven. The remainder of the complaints were either withdrawn or consolidated with other complaints before the access counselor issued an opinion.

The full report can be downloaded at the PAC’s Web site, or you can just click the link below:

Annual_report_FY_2009