Right to tape: Hold for Feb

Citizens have right to audio or video record public meetings

 

Anyone who wants to record an open meeting of the governing body of a state or local agency has the right to do so under the state’s Open Door Law.

I.C. 5-14-1.5-3 states that except for executive sessions, “all meetings of the governing bodies of public agencies must be open at all times for the purpose of permitting members of the public to observe and record them.”

The Indiana Supreme Court interpreted the statute in a 1989 decision to mean that governing bodies could not ban the use of cameras and tape recorders at public meetings. See Berry v. Peoples Broadcasting Corp., 547 N.E.2d 231 (Ind. 1989).

So what should a citizen who plans to tape a public meeting do if government officials tell him/her that they cannot do so.

Inform the official that citizens have the right pursuant to the Open Door Law and point out the issue has already been decided by the Indiana Supreme Court.

If they still insist that no taping can occur and the meeting is occurring during business hours of a weekday, suggest the officials make a quick call to Indiana’s Office of the Public Access Counselor, who can verify that the use of cameras and tape recorders must be allowed during a public meeting.

If the meeting is held in the evening or weekend, when the PAC is not available, suggest they check the Handbook on Indiana’s Public Access Laws, which is accessible on the PAC Web site at www.in.gov/pac. The relevant section (I.C. 5-14-1.5-3) should be found on page 13 of the current handbook.

If the government official refuses to budge on the issue, ICOG does not suggest individuals put themselves at risk of arrest for disorderly conduct. A citizen may have to acquiesce, despite the fact the law is clear, at the meeting and follow up with a request for an informal or formal opinion of the Public Access Counselor on the issue.

If the governing body refuses to abide by the advice of the PAC on this issue, the citizen may be required to file a lawsuit seeking an injunction from the circuit or superior court judge that orders the governing body to comply with the Open Door Law. If the citizen first sought the assistance of the PAC before being forced to take legal action, a successful decision in the case for the citizen will require the judge to award that plaintiff reasonable attorney fees and court costs that would have to be paid by the losing government agency.