Public access counselor rules Anderson council meeting violated Open Door

Indiana’s public access counselor has ruled that the Anderson City Council violated Indiana’s Open Door Law by meeting at a restaurant. Access Counselor Michael Hurst ruled Thursday that when five of the nine council members conducted city business on April 15 without posting the meeting 48 hours in advance, they violated the public access law.

 

Access counselor rules Anderson council meeting violated Open Door

The Associated Press

ANDERSON, Ind. (May 23, 2004) — The state’s public access counselor has ruled that the Anderson City Council violated Indiana’s Open Door Law by meeting at a restaurant.

Access Counselor Michael Hurst ruled Thursday that when five of the nine council members _ a quorum _ conducted city business on April 15 without posting the meeting 48 hours in advance, they violated the public access law.

Hurst said he made the ruling even though he does not believe based on the evidence that it was council’s intention to violate the law.

Council members questioned city officials at the meeting about departmental budgets, a proposed city ordinance and construction of the police station.

“What occurred at this gathering was much more than the mere attendance of a majority of the council at the same place; it included an active discussion or precisely the same issues that were appropriate for a regular meeting of the Council in the council chamber,” Hurst wrote.

Council President Ollie H. Dixon, who arranged the meeting at his restaurant, disagreed with the ruling.

“The counselor noted that it was not intentional,” he said. “I believe citizens should be able to meet with council members, regardless of how many attend, in a town hall meeting.”

Resident Will Carter filed the complaint about the meeting because he wanted to know what the law stated.

Dixon, through attorney Tim Lanane, contended there was notice published in The Herald Bulletin and that the meeting was an informational session with city residents.

Anderson City Attorney David Happe said he has always counseled members to be careful that an informational meeting is not be converted to a council meeting.

“The ruling confirmed what I told them in the past,” Happe said. “If it happens again, one member has to leave or bill the meeting as a council meeting.”