Open Door Law (Public Meetings):
Public notice of the date, time and place of any meetings, executive sessions, or of any rescheduled meeting, shall be given at least 48 hours before the meeting (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and Legal Holidays). This requirement does not apply to reconvened meetings where announcements of the date, time, and place of the reconvened meeting is made at the original meeting and recorded in the memoranda and minutes thereof, and there is no change in the agenda.
1. Public notice shall be given by the governing body of a public agency by:
(a) Posting a copy of the notice at the principal office of the public agency holding the meeting, or if no such office exists, at the building where the meeting is to be held; and
(b) depositing in the United States mail with postage prepaid or by delivering notice to all news media which file by January 1 an annual written request for such notices with the governing body of the public agency.
2. Notice of regular meetings need to be given only once each year, except that an additional notice shall be given where the date, time, or place of a regular meeting or meetings is changed. However, this does not apply to executive sessions. Forty-eight hoursí notice must always be given before executive sessions.
3. If a meeting is called to deal with an emergency involving actual or threatened injury to person or property, or actual or threatened disruption of the governmental activity under the jurisdiction of the public agency by any event, then the time requirements of such notice under this section shall not apply, but:
(a) news media which have requested notice of meetings must be given the same notice as is given to the members of the governing body; and
(b) the public must be notified by posting a copy of the notice according to this section.
Executive and working sessions can be extremely productive. They should be scheduled with caution, and should only be used for legitimate reasons. Such legitimate reasons in this respect are very carefully spelled out in the Indiana "Open Door Law," which states the following allowable reasons for holding executive sessions:
1. where authorized by federal or state statute;
2. for discussion of strategy with respect to: collective bargaining, initiation of litigation or litigation which is either pending or has been threatened specifically in writing, the implementation of security systems, or the purchase or lease of real property, up to the time a contract or option to purchase or lease is executed by the parties; however, all such strategy discussions must be necessary for competitive or bargaining reasons;
3. interviews with industrial or commercial prospects or their agents;
4. interviews with prospective employees;
5. with respect to any individual over whom the governing body has jurisdiction: to receive information concerning the individualís status as an employee, student, or independent contractor;
6. for discussion of records classified as confidential by state or federal statute;
7. to discuss before any replacement decision an individual studentís abilities, past performance, behavior and needs; and
8. to discuss a job performance evaluation of individual employees.
Notice is not
required when County Commissioners meet solely to:
1. carry out administrative functions
2. receive information or recommendations to carry out administrative functions; or
3. confer with staff members on matters relating to the internal management of the county.
"Administrative functions" do not include awarding contracts or entering into binding obligation.
Executive sessions are not permitted to discuss employee salaries, compensation or benefits during the budget process or to interview prospective appointees to a public body. A violation of the "Open Door Law" cannot be corrected by merely ratifying the prior actions at a public meeting; the governing body may be required by a court to substantially reconsider the entire matter.
All final action must be taken at a meeting open to the public. Finally, public notice of executive sessions must state their purposes or subject matter. A governing body may not conduct an executive session during a meeting except as otherwise permitted by applicable statute.
A meeting may not be recessed and reconvened unless a 48-hour notice has been posted. As a general rule, it is probably better to keep a meeting open rather than project an image of withholding information. If there is doubt, it is wise to consult with the county legal counsel.
In dealing with the media, it is absolutely imperative that there is never an attempt to cover up personal or public wrongdoing or anything that relates to improper conduct of any public official. This clearly falls within the province of the public" right to know, and as an elected representative you are obligated to make such information available.